Position Statement: COVID-19 Vaccination for Physiotherapists

Physiotherapy New Zealand (PNZ) recognises that Aotearoa New Zealand is experiencing uncertain times. The physiotherapy profession and the patients/clients of physiotherapists have been profoundly affected by the ongoing measures to manage COVID-19 since the first cases in March 2020 and physiotherapists have been supportive of the public health measures taken to date. This PNZ position statement endorses government guidance on vaccination and aligns with the position of other professional organisations in the health sector.


PNZ recognises the national vaccination programme as an important line of defense against the COVID-19 pandemic. Other measures such as ventilation, continued infection prevention and control measures, including PPE, are also important, but these measures alone, in the absence of vaccination, will be significantly less effective at minimising transmission of the virus.

On 25 October the extended COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Amendment Order 2021 came into effect mandating vaccination for all health workers including physiotherapists. The government position is this decision was made in the best interests of the health and wellbeing of all New Zealanders.

The Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers Rights1 legally protects the right to informed consent for all health care consumers in relation to health care treatments. Therefore the decision to accept the COVID-19 vaccination is a personal choice. The government mandate however means that the right to continue providing a health care service is contingent on choosing to be vaccinated.

From a professional and ethical perspective, and in line with the Human Rights Commission2, PNZ encourages physiotherapists to consider our collective responsibility to the community as health professionals, by ensuring physiotherapists minimise the risk of transmitting the virus in the course of their work. 

A high level of vaccination across the whole population contributes to health equity through collective immunity which reduces the rate of transmission to communities who may experience more harm from COVID-19. It will also reduce the chances of lockdown conditions in the future.

The Physiotherapy Board Statement

The requirement for mandatory vaccination was made by the government. The Code of Ethics requires physiotherapists to have a full understanding of and comply with the laws and regulations that govern and impact on the practice of physiotherapy in New Zealand (principle 5.8). Physiotherapists therefore need to understand and comply with the Order, because health practitioners are included within the groups in the health and disability sector that must be vaccinated in order to carry out certain work. The Order requires all health practitioners to have COVID-19 vaccinations by specified dates, (15 November 2021 first dose, 1 January 2022 second dose) in order to continue working, irrespective of the setting in which they work. This includes telehealth.

Physiotherapists who choose not to be vaccinated

For those PNZ members who cannot or choose not to be vaccinated the following points need to be considered.

  • Employers must uphold the law which requires all health professionals registered under the HPCA Act to be vaccinated.  
  • Employers must also uphold the broad employment rights and responsibilities of employees under the Employment Relations Act 2000.

Patient Vaccination

The PNZ position is that health service should not be declined on the basis of patient vaccination status. However, individual businesses may make a different decision based on their own Health & Safety assessment. Vaccination for physiotherapists and the staff working with physiotherapists reduces the risk of catching COVID from a patient, or reduces the severity of infection.

The risk of transmission of the virus from patients/clients can be managed through ventilation, screening, contact tracing, infection control measures and PPE if required. Physiotherapy businesses that are advised they are a place of interest following a positive COVID case will need to follow the advice from Public Health regarding closure and cleaning. 

Links for further information

A PNZ hosted webinar with Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC) Director Professor Nikki Turner, on the COVID-19 vaccination programme and role of allied health practitioners is available here.

1Health and Disability Commissioner, Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights, H. Health and Disability Commissioner - Te Toihau Hauora, Editor. 1996, Health and Disability Commissioner: Wellington.

2Human Rights Commission. Balancing human rights in a covid environment; Accessed from: hrc.co.nz/resources/human-rights-relation-covid-19/.

Page updated November 2021