COVID-19: Exemptions from vaccination

What exemptions are available and information on how to apply for individuals, people travelling to New Zealand and employers.

Last updated: 7 July 2022

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Temporary medical exemptions

Temporary medical exemptions provide mandated workers with a time specific exemption from receiving COVID-19 vaccinations. See COVID-19: Mandatory vaccinations for a list of workforces that must be vaccinated.

Purpose of an exemption

We recommend that all eligible people get vaccinated against COVID-19.   

We know that being vaccinated and having booster vaccinations lowers people’s chances of getting COVID-19 (including the Omicron variant) and reduces the likelihood of getting very sick.  The risks from COVID-19 disease and its impacts are substantially greater than the risk of harmful outcomes from receiving the COVID-19 vaccination.

There are very few situations where a COVID-19 vaccine is unable to be used.  This means that a medical exemption is rarely required.

Temporary exemptions are time specific. This means that they are only valid for a specific time – up to six months.

This allows, for example, recovery from clinical conditions or illness; or the availability of alternate vaccines and specialised supportive care arrangements to be vaccinated.

Vaccination should be completed as soon as clinically safe within the exemption timeframe.

It is likely that most people who are not medically exempt can be safely vaccinated, with some requiring extra precautions and/or support.

International travel

Temporary medical exemptions are only valid in New Zealand. If you are wanting to apply for an International Travel Vaccine certificate for international travel, this will only show the COVID-19 vaccination/s that you have had administered and not your temporary medical exemption. If you are wishing to travel internationally, you will need to check the requirements of both the airline you wish to travel with and the country you are travelling to, about their COVID-19 vaccine requirements, exemption policies and processes. 

How to apply for an exemption

You can only apply for a temporary medical exemption if you are a mandated worker and meet certain medical clinical criteria (see COVID-19: Mandatory vaccinations for a list of workforces). You can’t apply for a medical exemption for yourself. All medical exemptions must be submitted by a medical or nurse practitioner on your behalf.

Your health professional will fill in the application on your behalf. This application, needs to detail why they think you should be exempt, based on the medical exemption criteria and supporting information provided as part of the application.

Your application must be made under an exemption category. To be granted an exemption you must meet the clinical criteria of the exemption category.  This often will require having supporting information, such as a Specialist letter outlining the condition or diagnosis.  All the information of the categories and clinical information and the application can be found below.

There are very few situations where a COVID-19 vaccine is unable to be used. This means that a medical exemption is rarely required and granted in New Zealand.

Application forms, exemption categories, clinical criteria, guidance, and resources

How we assess Temporary medical exemptions applications for mandated workers

Your health professional will fill in the application on your behalf and send this to us. 

Once a completed application is received, it is considered against the category exemption criteria. The process is overseen by the Temporary Medical Exemption Panel. A recommendation is made to the Director-General of Health for his decision.

This panel includes medical and nurse practitioners, with relevant expertise including immunology, neurology, pharmacology, general medicine, psychiatry, paediatrics, and primary health care expertise. The panel also consults with appropriate external experts as required. 

The Director General makes the decision on all applications.

If the application has missing information, or there is insufficient information to consider your application, we will contact your health professional and let them know this. Once this information is provided, we will assess your application.

In most circumstances, once a completed application is received, we can process these in around ten working days.

Temporary Medical Exemption Panel terms of reference:

Decisions on temporary medical exemption

We will notify both yourself and medical or nurse practitioner on the outcome of your application.

If you have been granted an exemption:

  • You will receive a letter with details of your exemption and how long this will last.
  • You can update your My Vaccine Pass for the term of your exemption.
  • Your return-to-work arrangements should be discussed between you and your employer, as it will likely require a plan in place to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission between you, your colleagues, and consumers.

If your medical exemption has been declined, we recommend you seek individual clinical advice from a suitably qualified medical or nurse practitioner who knows you best, such as your General Practitioner or your GP practice nurse to talk with you about questions, concerns or worries you may have about being vaccinated including options such as:

  • receiving a vaccination of an approved COVID-19 vaccine with appropriate supervision and supports – you can arrange for a free primary care appointment to enable longer pre and post vaccination support with observation time.
  • the use of an alternate approved COVID-19 vaccine.

If your health professional believes new supporting clinical evidence is available and is relevant to your application, the application can be resubmitted.

Applying for a temporary medical exemption for mandated workers with a current, or recent COVID-19 illness

We have introduced some changes to the temporary medical exemption process for mandated workers who either have or have recently recovered from a COVID-19 illness, and as a result may be unable to receive a COVID-19 vaccination or booster vaccination due to their COVID-19 illness. 

For individuals

If you are a mandated worker and either have a current or recent COVID-19 illness, you may be able to receive a temporary medical exemption. A Medical or Nurse Practitioner will have to apply on your behalf.

This is covered by category 1A of the temporary medical exemption criteria. Temporary medical exemptions accepted under category 1A will last for 12 weeks from the date the application is considered.

You will need to provide evidence of a positive test result for your COVID-19 illness. This could be by providing a screen shot of a My COVID Record that displays the PCR or uploaded Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) result, a hard copy of a laboratory report, or a text notification of the positive test result.

You do not have to make an appointment in person with your Medical or Nurse Practitioner. Please contact your local GP for an appointment. They will be able to advise you on appointment options, ie, in person, by telephone or via a zoom call.

Once your application has been submitted, the processing time for these medical exemptions is around five working days.

For PCBUs (employers) of mandated workers who have contracted COVID-19 for the first time

We have introduced a streamlined process for PCBUs (employers) that have mandated workers to recognise and administer an exemption from vaccination for their workers for 100 days, if they can verify their worker has recently recovered from, or tested positive for, COVID-19.

The current medical advice is to wait three months before receiving your next COVID-19 vaccination (booster or second dose). This impacts mandated workers who are required to be vaccinated and boosted and are not able to meet these timeframes because they have had COVID-19 and need to wait three months after infection to receive a booster.

  • This new process is for employers that have mandated workers who, from 16 May, have recovered from, or test positive for, COVID-19 and are therefore eligible for a temporary medical exemption.
  • The employer must recognise and administer their workers’ exemption from vaccination for 100 days on the verification of a positive COVID-19 test.
  • To verify a positive COVID-19 test an employer can view:
    • a screen shot of a My COVID Record that displays the PCR or uploaded Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) result,
    • a hard copy of a laboratory report,
    • or a text notification of the positive test result.
  • The employer must confirm in writing the exemption details to the affected worker. This includes the start and end dates of the exemption. The start date is from 16 May.
  • The confirmation of the exemption can be made by the owner, Chief Executive or equivalent.  They may also delegate this to a senior person within the PCBU, such as HR Manager.
  • The employer is required to provide Ministry of Health COVID Response total numbers of exempted workers on a quarterly basis (20 January, 20 April, 20 July, 20 October).

For PCBUs (employers) of mandated workers who have contracted COVID-19 more than once

Only one exemption can be recognised by a PCBU for an affected worker.  If a worker subsequently suffers a further COVID-19 illness, that individual will need to apply to the Ministry of Health via a medical or nurse practitioner as described above.

Temporary Medical Exemptions for people returning or visiting from overseas

Visiting New Zealand but not working

When you're in New Zealand you may be asked to show proof of your vaccination status to access certain services – such as travel and healthcare.

At this stage, overseas COVID-19 vaccination certificates and passes cannot be used as proof of vaccination within New Zealand. You will need to apply to have your overseas vaccinations recognised in New Zealand by submitting evidence of them.

You will then be able to download a 'My Vaccine Pass' to show evidence of your COVID-19 vaccination status. More information: COVID-19 overseas vaccinations and My Vaccine Pass.

If you are a mandated worker and medically unable to receive a COVID-19 vaccination you may be able to receive a temporary medical exemption. If you are granted an exemption you will also be able to download a 'My Vaccine Pass' – allowing you to access services that have My Vaccine Pass requirements in New Zealand.

Coming to New Zealand to work

In some work situations in New Zealand, you are required to be fully vaccinated and have received a booster vaccination to be able to work (see COVID-19: Mandatory vaccinations). Please check with your New Zealand employer before you arrive on the requirements in your individual workplace.

More information on mandatory vaccinations 

If you are a mandated worker and medically unable to receive a COVID-19 vaccination you may be able to receive a temporary medical exemption. 

If you do receive an exemption, your employer will have to complete a risk assessment to confirm that you are able to perform your role unvaccinated or partially vaccinated before you begin working.

To apply for an exemption from overseas, because you will be employed in New Zealand in a mandated worker role:

  • We recommend that your application is submitted at least four weeks before you arrive in New Zealand.
  • Your application needs to be filled in and emailed to us by a registered medical practitioner.
  • Your application and any supporting information will need to be provided to the Ministry of Health in English. If some of your documents are not in English, you will need to provide these translated by an authorised translator.

Temporary significant service disruption exemptions

Health and disability sector

We have updated the temporary significant service disruption exemption application process to standardise the process for single and group applications. 

Temporary significant service disruption exemptions are for the Person Conducting Business or Undertaking known as PCBUs (employers) who are at risk of a significant disruption of their services because mandated worker/s have not met the mandated vaccination and/or booster vaccination timeframe as prescribed in the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021 (Vaccinations Order).

These exemptions are temporary and are granted to PCBUs to allow their mandated staff to keep working and avoid a significant service disruption, usually for a period of between one to six weeks to allow for example, the vaccination of the specified affected mandated worker/s or training of a replacement worker/s for the specified role or part of the role.

All PCBUs who are granted an exemption, must have a robust plan in place to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 that protects the affected mandated worker, all the workers in the workplace, and all people who receive their services. 

Information on how to undertake these risk management plans is available at:

When an application is received and checked for completeness it will be taken forward to the Temporary Significant Service Disruption Panel for review who will make a recommendation to the Minister. 

The Minister reviews each application and will decide on whether to grant an exemption or not. 

We recommend that PCBUs submit an application as soon as possible to ensure that there is minimum disruption to service delivery. There is a processing time of 10 working days for complete applications.

Details of the application processes

Exemptions are only approved where there’s supporting evidence of a significant disruption risk to service continuity.

For individual workers

If you are an employer with one worker who has not met the mandated booster vaccination timeframe, you need to:

For multiple workers

If you are an employer with more than one worker who has not met the mandated booster vaccination timeframe, you will need to:

For all applications

For both processes you will be required to provide details of each individual worker, how your service would be significantly disrupted, and what risk management plans will be in place should your exemption application be granted.

Unsure whom of your workers are impacted?

You can request information about your employees’ vaccination status from the Ministry. Once we receive your CIR data sharing application, we will email you with the next steps, including detailed information on getting your employees’ authorisation to obtain their vaccination record. More information is available at Requesting employee vaccination records.

Application form and spreadsheet

Updated 22 February 2022

Related documents

Other useful links

The potential for significant service disruption if the work carried out by a particular person does not occur

To assist the Minister in deciding an exception under this clause you should provide evidence to support:

  • what the service disruption would be if the worker is unable to perform the role
  • how significant the service disruption would be
  • the service is considered essential
  • what the extent of the risk to the public interest is from the service disruption.
The extent to which the work is necessary

To assist the Minister in deciding an exception under this clause you should provide evidence of:

  • what efforts have been made to make the worker aware of the vaccination requirement, including the deadline for getting vaccinated
  • whether the employer/PCBU offered the worker the opportunity to receive the vaccine during their usual working hours
  • the reason the worker has decided not to be vaccinated at this time (including any identified barriers to the worker being vaccinated)
  • whether the worker has been briefed on the vaccine by a suitably qualified health practitioner
  • whether the individual worker cannot be replaced with another existing worker, by another function, or by training of other or new staff in the short term
  • whether the employer/PCBU can operate without the role, even while recruitment or retraining is underway (noting any qualifications required and how long training will take)
  • how necessary the work activities are, including whether they could reasonably be delayed to facilitate vaccination of the worker needed to perform the role.

The Minister may exempt the worker for a specified period.

No class or group exceptions will be considered. However, if appropriate, a PCBU may seek exceptions for more than one worker at a time. In this situation, the PCBU should outline the cumulative effect of that group not being vaccinated.

Where to go for more information

Read more about mandatory vaccination for workers at COVID-19: Mandatory vaccinations and on the Unite Against COVID-19 website

Find more about COVID-19 vaccination at COVID-19: Vaccine information for health professionals and on the Unite Against COVID-19 website.

Read employment-focused information on vaccinations.

Access a Vaccine Assessment Tool for business.

Email [email protected] for information about health orders.

Email [email protected] for education-related questions.

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