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In wake of 1 NEWS investigation, Ministry of Health admits flu vaccine stocks were low

The Ministry of Health has finally admitted central stocks of flu vaccine did run low during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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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

It comes after months of denials - and repeatedly rejecting the accounts of front-line health workers who couldn't get their hands on supply.

The admission also comes 24 hours after 1 NEWS exclusively revealed the ministry's own emails that cited "very low" stock.

When pressed about how transparent the ministry had been with the public today, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield - who had encouraged New Zealanders to get vaccinated on the same day ministry staff were emailing about low stock - changed his position.

"Yes, we had at some points low stock centrally," Dr Bloomfield said.

He also insisted that was not an issue due to the amount of vaccine that had already been distributed around the country.

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Officials repeatedly denied there was a shortage, but a six-month investigation by 1 NEWS reveals the ministry did know there was one. Source: 1 NEWS

But 1 NEWS has also uncovered Ministry of Health documents outlining major issues with our vaccination system, including emails from distributors saying Christchurch “are not geared up or trained to ship bulk stock” and if done, there was a “risk we could lose it all”.

It also says the system was thrown “into chaos” when there was a disruption in supply and there were problems with getting vaccines back from private providers.

Doctors warn the system could not cope with a Covid-19 vaccination programme.

And today Dr Bloomfield also admitted it's something the ministry has work to do on.

"We are already planning the possibility of Covid immunisation, of course, and whilst there's still a lot of uncertainty about a vaccine, whether and when the vaccine will be available, and when New Zealand might get access to it that, we are not sitting idle," he said.

"We have work well underway to look at how we could deliver vaccine across the population - and of course that includes learning from our experience with our measles outbreak last year and also the issues that were identified this year in our influenza campaign."

The ministry started a review three months ago on the 2020 flu vaccination programme and the findings are due out in the next fortnight.

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Dr Vanessa Weenink of the New Zealand Medical Association says a virus vaccine would “absolutely not” be rolled out effectively. Source: Breakfast