Jacinda Ardern says her government won’t deny health care or charge unvaccinated New Zealanders more for hospital stays, even as they dominate hospitalisations.
Debate is swirling in Australia around a NSW government proposal to bill unvaccinated Australians should they require hospital-level care if they catch COVID-19.
The practice has been tabled in city-state Singapore, but the New Zealand prime minister insists it’s not on the government’s agenda.
“We don’t treat people who make health or lifestyle choices that mean they’re more likely to end up in hospital, we don’t treat them differently,” Ms Ardern told AAP.
“We still want people to give the same level of treatment and care regardless of their personal beliefs.”
By worldwide standards, the impact of COVID-19 remains low, and Omicron is yet to enter the community.
On Thursday, health authorities reported 56 community cases, less than one per cent of Australia’s caseload.
Unvaccinated Kiwis are over-represented among the new cases, and a majority of those in NZ hospitals – currently numbering 48 – have not opted into the government’s free Pfizer vaccination program.
The rollout has seen 95 per cent of New Zealanders aged 12 and over vaccinated with at least one dose, and 90 per cent with two.
Ms Ardern believes unvaccinated Kiwis aren’t motivated by bad intentions.
“Some people are making decisions having either been targeted or in receipt of information that’s just wrong,” she said.
“For those who are really working hard on vaccines and encouraging vaccines, it’s because we want people to be safe and the best thing we can do is get them vaccinated.
“For those who are strongly opposed to vaccines. It’s because they think that’s keeping people safe. So actually, what’s motivating people was not often isn’t ill-will.
“I hope with time we’ll come through that. I hope with time people will see the benefit of vaccines, and they’ll change their minds.”
New Zealand has issued extensive vaccine mandates among a swathe of industries, including health, prisons, education and police workforces.