Auckland Transport includes religious exemptions in Covid-19 vaccination policy

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Auckland Transport (AT) staff may request a waiver of their Covid-19 vaccine mandate on religious grounds.

As of December 15, the council-controlled agency, which is responsible for transport projects and services in Auckland, has asked anyone, including staff, to prove they are double vaccinated before entering the one of his places of work.

However, workers with genuine religious reasons for not wanting to be vaccinated could apply for an exemption from AT’s chief executive, an AT spokesperson confirmed.

In the United States, people seeking religious exemptions from employers’ immunization requirements are sometimes faced with “sincerity tests” from employers verifying that they are not wearing a cloak of false faith just to justify not. not get vaccinated.

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People seeking religious exemptions from employer-imposed vaccination warrants would likely not be subject to sincerity tests in New Zealand, according to employment law expert Olivia Lund of law firm Duncan Cotterill.

“An organization could potentially challenge and ask this employee for evidence of their religious beliefs,” she said.

“In my experience, most employers won’t. They will take it at face value and focus on being able to make reasonable accommodations to allow that unvaccinated person to continue working.

CHRIS SKELTON

The Congregational Christian Church of Samoa organized a mobile vaccination clinic for the Pasifika community in the city. (First published on September 5, 2021)

It may be unusual for AT’s vaccination policy to specifically mention religious exemptions, but Lund says employees can request religious exemptions as part of any workplace vaccination policy that is not mandated by the government. government.

“It would be under the Human Rights Act. An organization should not discriminate against a worker because of their religious beliefs, ”she said.

If a worker applied for an exemption, their employer would be required by law to consider whether they could accept that worker’s faith-based decision not to vaccinate without unreasonably disrupting operations or posing an unacceptable health risk. and the safety of others, she said.

“What is reasonable will depend on the context of the situation, the type and nature of the work they are doing,” Lund explains.

It might be easier for larger organizations, which might have more opportunities to redeploy their staff than smaller ones, she says.

Lund said in early messages to health ministry businesses in the guidance material, the ministry said it was not aware of any religious or faith-based organizations that opposed vaccinations.

But, she said, when consulting with staff on immunization mandates, employers often ask questions about religious beliefs.

People wishing to challenge an employer’s refusal to grant them a religious exemption as part of their vaccination mandate could approach the Human Rights Commission or the Labor Relations Authority, Lund said. .

The spokesperson for AT said that under its policy, if an exception was granted, it was for a specified period and required the covered person to work from home.

Duncan Cotterill health and safety expert and partner Olivia Lund said Air New Zealand is leading the way in implementing a Covid-19 negative test policy and that other companies will be monitoring how this is done .

Provided

Duncan Cotterill health and safety expert and partner Olivia Lund said Air New Zealand is leading the way in implementing a Covid-19 negative test policy and that other companies will be monitoring how this is done .

AT’s website says it is not covered by government-imposed vaccination mandates, such as the one imposed on teachers, which the government has successfully defended in court.

The Human Rights Commission says on its website that people who choose not to be vaccinated because of their personal beliefs cannot obtain immunization exemptions in line with government mandates.

Truthfulness testing could be a difficult task for some religious people, according to vaccinologist and associate professor Helen Petousis-Harris of the University of Auckland.

Vaccinologist Helen Petousis-Harris says many drugs were developed after tests on human cell lines originally derived from fetal cells.

Chris McKeen / Stuff

Vaccinologist Helen Petousis-Harris says many drugs were developed after tests on human cell lines originally derived from fetal cells.

Where Christian religious opposition to Covid-19 vaccines has manifested itself in the United States and the United Kingdom, it is following a moral objection to the development of vaccines with early stage testing involving “Cell lines” cultured from cells of human origin. fetus.

But Petousis-Harris says there is no fetal cell content in Covid-19 vaccines.

“It’s also not made on fetal cell lines,” she says.

But anyone who wants to sincerely state that this is the reason they will not be vaccinated might be asked if they have consented or would be willing to take other drugs that have been tested on the cell lines they oppose, says -she.

Religion is clearly a factor in the refusal of some people to get vaccinated, as religious icons have been withheld during anti-vaccination and lockdown protests.  This photo was taken during a protest in Christchurch on December 4.

CHRIS SKELTON / Tips

Religion is clearly a factor in the refusal of some people to get vaccinated, as religious icons have been withheld during anti-vaccination and lockdown protests. This photo was taken during a protest in Christchurch on December 4.

“Almost all drugs, with a few exceptions, have involved a human fetal cell line at some point during development,” said Petousis-Harris.

“You would really like to avoid just about all drugs, all drugs. “

“Common over-the-counter drugs, anti-inflammatories, that sort of thing, pretty much all of them would be included in your objection, if you were to be consistent,” says Petousis-Harris.

The Pope can support the Covid-19 vaccinations, but not all Christians agree.

CHRIS SKELTON / Tips

The Pope can support the Covid-19 vaccinations, but not all Christians agree.

She says religious groups like the Catholic Church have made clear their support for vaccinations, including rubella, which was grown on a human fetal cell line.

“The position of the Catholic Church is that it should take advantage of the vaccine because it saves lives,” she said.

In August, Pope Francis told the faithful: “Getting vaccinated is a simple but profound way to take care of each other, especially the most vulnerable,” and at the end of December, the Vatican demanded that all employees be vaccinated or prove that they have recovered from Covid. -19.

Pope Francis says getting vaccinated is an act of love to protect vulnerable people in our communities.

Gregorio Borgia / AP

Pope Francis says getting vaccinated is an act of love to protect vulnerable people in our communities.

“I don’t know of any particular religion that opposes vaccines,” says Petousis-Harris.

“You can only pretend it’s your own choice, and it’s your religious belief.”

Religious objections to the Covid-19 vaccination have not directly figured in the Department of Health’s monthly surveys of vaccine reluctance.

Nor have they sparked petitions in Parliament like they did in the UK where Molly Ellen Moran petitioned Parliament saying, “We should be free to go where we want without being discriminated against because of our religious beliefs. “.

She has yet to get the 100,000 signatures she needs to get Parliament to consider debating the issue.

Here, Parliament had eight petitions about Covid-19 vaccinations, but they either opposed vaccine warrants because they curtail personal freedom, called for changes to the warrant system, or asked people to have the choice of vaccines.


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