Health Ministry 'learnt lessons' from botched flu jab rollout as NZ awaits Covid-19 vaccine — Bloomfield

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has assured that last year’s botched flu vaccine rollout won’t be repeated when people start receiving the Covid-19 jab from March this year. 

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The Director-General of Health says vaccinations should begin by March. Source: Breakfast

Bloomfield assured the Ministry of Health had taken stock after last year’s flu jab rollout, which saw a number of logistical issues. 

“We’ve looked very carefully at flu [vaccinations] last year, which of course we were trying to do in the middle of the pandemic,” he said.

The Ministry of Health also assessed its 2019 measles vaccination drive, Bloomfield added. 

“We have learnt lessons from that. This time and for this vaccine … we will be running all the logistics with one team.”

He also promised a new logistics operation that would be backed up with a new database. 

“So, we can absolutely track the vaccine, wherever it is around the country, and make sure it is where it is needed.”

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The concession comes after 1 NEWS exclusively revealed the ministry’s own emails, vindicating the accounts of front-line workers. Source: 1 NEWS

In August, 1 NEWS exclusively revealed the Ministry of Health admitted central stocks of the flu vaccine ran low during the height of the pandemic. The admission came after months of denials from ministry officials, who repeatedly rejected the accounts of front-line health workers who couldn't get their hands on doses.  

report published in September last year also revealed issues with measles vaccinations in 2019. A report into the campaign found it was "ad hoc and lacked good preparation". 

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The report also found communication was "unclear, conflicting and inconsistent" in relation to vaccine supply and availability — something that was repeated in the 2020 flu vaccine effort.

Bloomfield said today at least 2000 staff needed to be trained in giving vaccines, to top up the 12,000 existing health professionals who could do so. 

“We’re well underway identifying, recruiting and training that workforce.”

A “whole range of settings” would also be used to carry out the inoculations, including in GP practices, mobile centres and mass events, he said.

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An information campaign before that would be in place, with high-quality and accurate information, Bloomfield said. 

Well-known faces would be featured in the campaign “not to try and convince people to be vaccinated, but to point people to where they can find really good information”.

Specific campaigns will also target Māori, Pasifika and refugee communities, he said. 

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They would be for at-risk workers. Source: 1 NEWS

“New Zealanders, myself included, will want to be really assured that the vaccines we use here are really safe and effective,” he added, with vaccines still expected to arrive in March. Border workers are set to be prioritised.

He said Medsafe is “well underway” in assessing a number of vaccines. 

Bloomfield said the Pfizer vaccine will likely be the first one the country will use.