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Teething issues for vaccine rollout

Gerrit Gray Doppenberg
Flu Vaccine
Vaccine rollout issues are being ironed out.   Google

The vaccine rollout is on schedule, but it doesn't mean there aren't growing pains. 

General practitioners are set to be a major part in the rollout of vaccines to the public.  

The plan is in its second stage - immunising border workers - and the third stage is set to begin, when those most vulnerable to Covid-19 will get the jab.

But there are issues getting doctors and nurses trained and ready to help out according to Vanessa Weenink, chair of Pegasus Health. 

Some of the issues are being ironed out, such as systems put in place to monitor and register patients into a database to track their vaccinations. 

Earlier stages of the system had multiple hoops to jump through, but Weenink said the system was improving. 

Vaccination sites must be checked off and authorised to be used, including cold chain management for the vaccines. 

Covid vaccines must be kept at a steady below-freezing temperature for storage or between 2-8 degrees celsius for use - but only for five days. 

But Weenink said nurses and doctors were used to cold chain management - and did not require rigorous training. 

“Seems to be a little bit of teaching your grandmother to suck eggs."  

Canterbury is one of the sites she's worried about in the rollout - it excels in some aspects and falls behind in others - which could lead to wastage. 

She said New Zealand should look to countries such as Israel for guidance on how to manage mass-vaccination. 

Israel currently has around 56 percent of its population fully-vaccinated - and a larger percentage with at least one dose. 

“If we were organised well and had our systems set up really efficiently we should be able to do it quite rapidly."

Weenink said there was a reasonable supply of vaccines coming into the country, but warned not to count chickens before they hatch.  

“We have to be sure of the delivery of those millions of vaccines before the end of the year.”  

The country also needed to be sure of the delivery of vaccines, which could be disrupted.

“I’ve got some confidence we can get things done, but it does come down to supply.”  

Mobile vaccination sites will be available for smaller towns in New Zealand – such as places like Reefton.  

Weenink suggested this could be a community event, and the transportation of vaccines would not be an issue.