The arrival of spring has also seen the flu season officially declared over by Waikato District Health board, meaning unvaccinated nurses and visitors are no longer required to wear masks.
This winter was the second in three years in which the DHB required unvaccinated frontline staff to wear masks when caring for patients during the declared flu season (low influenza rates last year meant a flu season was never declared).
This winter the DHB also asked for visitors who hadn’t had the season’s flu vaccine to wear masks when with patients from July 3 until September 19, when the Medical Officer of Health Dr Felicity Dumble declared the flu season officially over.
The NZNO at the start of the flu season expressed ‘significant concerns’ about the DHB’s ‘vaccinate or mask’ policy, particularly because of the suspension of two unvaccinated nurses who declined to wear masks in the first winter the policy was in force.
Director of nursing Sue Hayward told Nursing Review that no issues involving staff unable to wear masks when working clinically had been brought to her attention this winter.
In late June, 71 per cent of nurses had had the seasonal flu vaccine but Hayward said by the end of the flu season 81.6 per cent of nurses had taken up the option of vaccination, which was slightly higher than the 80 per cent who had received the vaccine by the end of winter last year.