series event

Health professionals and vaccine mandates: a New Zealand case study​

Teal background featuring text: LSHTM Event

In October 2021, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the New Zealand government introduced a vaccine mandate for all health workers. In the primary health sector, most doctors and nurses complied but a significant minority of midwives did not and lost their jobs. While they argued the mandate was an unwarranted assault on their individual freedom, others viewed it as justifiable in the interests of their clients - mothers and babies. 

​Alt text: A photograph of a placard stating ‘Being forced to jab is not consent – Midwives protect bodily autonomy – we deserve the same protection’

This was not the first time midwives and public health officials had come to blows. Twenty years earlier, the Director of Public Health was astounded to discover significant numbers of midwives not following government directives to promote immunization.

In this seminar, Professor Linda Bryder will trace the history of this state-funded health sector in New Zealand and its attitudes to early childhood immunization by exploring the attitudes and philosophies of the profession’s leaders. She will unpack how a philosophy that some described as anti-science became entrenched within the midwifery profession, which since the 1990s had been given overall responsibility by the government for the health of the mothers and babies of New Zealand. 


Prof Linda Bryder, Professor of History, University of Auckland


Public Health Humanities Network


Ingrid James





Free and open to all, online and in person. No registration required. A recording of this session will be available after the event on this page.