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DHBs apologise after some Auckland GPs denied leftover Covid-19 vaccines

DHBs in the Auckland region have apologised after some South Auckland GPs were turned away from getting a Covid-19 vaccine when they were told spare doses were available. 

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield admitted there weren't enough spare doses for all those who turned up, but said many of those who got the jab were frontline workers.

Community vaccination programme lead Matt Hannart said the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre acknowledged things could have been done better.

“It all happened quite quickly and we acknowledge that this process was not ideal and apologise for the confusion and sense of unfairness that may have resulted from this,” he said in a statement to 1 NEWS. 

“We are in an emergency situation, working at pace and learning as we go, and acknowledge that we need to improve in this area and we will.”

The Government sends extra vaccines in case of breakages or wastage. If there are any spares at the end of a day, priority goes to any waiting border workers. 

1 NEWS understands a general invitation to get a Covid-19 vaccine, instead of what was meant to be a targeted one for frontline DHB staff on a standby list, is why some Auckland GPs were turned away.

Hannart said there was a “significant amount” of unused vaccine on Friday that needed to be used before it expired. 

“We needed to respond to the situation quickly and workers from a list of health workers defined by the Government including from DHBs and the community were then invited at very short notice to attend,” he said. 

“In this instance a number of community workers at CTCs (community testing centres), as well as Māori and Pacific primary care partners and a number of hospital staff were able to take up the offer and we were successful in not wasting a single dose of vaccine. 

“The hospital staff were on the Government list of healthcare workers and include attendants, cleaners, surgeons and intensivists, all of whom could be in contact with Covid-19 patients.”

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He said the Pfizer vaccine came with “unique logistical challenges”. 

“Once a dose of the vaccine reaches above -70 degrees it will expire in five days even when kept in a fridge. 

“Once the vaccine has been removed from the fridge it must be mixed within two hours and then used within six hours.”

In Auckland’s DHBs (Waitematā, Counties Manukau and Auckland), when a batch of vaccine is a day away from expiry, the local immunisation team would first get in contact with employers at MIQ and the airport and port, Hannart said. 

He said employers would then be asked if any of their staff would be free in the next 24 hours to get a vaccine, Hannart said. 

“Our plan will always be to use unexpected opportunities that come up to vaccinate people who are legitimately next in the priority order and ensure that no vaccine is wasted."