New Zealand Rugby will not make it mandatory for NPC players to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, however they will want assurances in time should players go on to Super Rugby Pacific and higher honours.
The NPC resumes this weekend, without the three Auckland-based teams, after a month-long hiatus brought on by the recent outbreak of the Covid-19 delta variant in Auckland.
While during that break some members of provincial unions have had at least one dose of the vaccine, New Zealand Rugby medical manager Karen Rasmussen said provincial unions were not required to provide NZR with the information around who is and isn't vaccinated in their unions.
"At this stage there is no obligation on Provincial Union Staff, including players, to provide this information, unless they have provided their consent to do so," Rasmussen said. "Any Covid-19 vaccination information that is collected by the Provincial Union needs to be stored securely in a password protected location, to protect the personal health information of that individual.
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"However, in time NZR may want some assurance from Provincial Unions that their players have been vaccinated. This is because if any player is selected for Super Rugby Pacific or any of our national teams in black, we would want to know those players have been fully vaccinated before they travel overseas. In those situations, proof of vaccination status will need to be provided.
"So, while it is not mandatory, NZR strongly encourage all players and management to get vaccinated."
In 2022, there will be further opportunities for players to get called into Super Rugby squads with the introduction for Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua. Moana Pasifika are expected to play the majority of their home games in New Zealand, while Fijian Drua will be based in Australia for the 2022 season.
While the vaccine is not compulsory for NPC and Farah Palmer Cup players, Rasmussen confirmed all players and management who have travelled, or are booked to travel internationally this year were fully vaccinated under the Early Access to Vaccination policy for an Event of National Significance which includes the All Blacks, Black Ferns and our Olympic Sevens teams.
New Zealand Rugby released a video fronted by the All Blacks at the start of the month calling for New Zealanders to get vaccinated, which featured messages from TJ Perenara, Brad Weber, Patrick Tuipulotu and George Bridge, while showed footage of several players and staff receiving their vaccines.
"It is important to note that the majority of our player group in New Zealand only became eligible for vaccination on 1 September due to their average age, so are likely to have only had one dose at this point in time," Rasmussen added.
"Given there needs to be a minimum of three to six weeks between doses, we understand it may take time for all of our players to be fully vaccinated."