Problems continue to plague distribution of the flu vaccine. The Ministry of Health
has suspended orders to general practices until another shipment arrives.
The frontline health sector is now calling for a review of vaccine distribution and a network of general practices says some clinics have now run out of vaccines despite needing to vaccinate thousands of priority patients.
The Government says about 700,000 vaccine doses are in the community yet to be administered and the issue isn't with supply, but distribution within district health boards.
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The ministry expects the next shipment 0f 320,000 to arrivethe week beginning May 11. Orders placed before April 27 would be filled but there could be a delay and appointments for vaccinations should be booked only once the stock was in.
Patients deemed high-risk and eligible for free vaccinations should be prioritised, the ministry said.
The initial vaccination programme was brought forward and then extended because of distribution issues to ensure the most vulnerable - over 65s, pregnant women, those with certain chronic conditions and frontline health workers - were prioritised.
About 587,000 people have been vaccinated compared to 290,000 for the same period last year.
And more people aged 65 and over have been vaccinated this year than throughout all of 2019.
The programme ended on April 27 and the wider public can now be vaccinated at a pharmacy or their doctor.
But OmniHealth said centres had up to 7000 priority people yet to vaccinate and the 60 per order limit imposed after earlier distribution issues had slowed the process.
Network director Mark Wills said many clinics also had orders cancelled and patients had blamed clinics.
"It's caused a lot of unnecessary angst and effort, which I thought would have been unavoidable."
Wills said the ministry's hold on orders was the latest frustration in a long list of issues and he wanted a review of the distribution chain.
This call was supported by the chief executive of the Pharmacy Guild, Andrew Gaudin, who said providing more vaccines should be applauded but the execution needed ironing out.
"I think everyone would support a review. There's definitely been a lot of frustrations. Some pharmacies have faced real challenges where they've placed an order, but it's been cancelled or not shown up.
"The intent has been excellent to get more vaccines to more people but we need to examine or review the execution of that."
Communities pharmacies had the same limits on orders as general practices and it was a myth they had an "endless supply", Gaudin said.
But he was pleased vaccines could now be offered to the wider population to protect more people heading into the flu season.
The Ministry of Health told the Herald more than 1.3 million doses of influenza vaccine had been distributed by the end of Thursday, of which:
• 942,656 went to general practices
• 180,974 went to pharmacists
• the remainder went to DHBs and private vaccinators.
"We commend the efforts of general practices and pharmacists to protect their most vulnerable populations. Some still have at-risk patients to reach, [but] this work is substantially completed to at least the standard it was last year," a ministry spokesperson said.
Individual providers still needing to vaccinate priority patients should contact their DHB or immunisation co-ordinator to manage their order.
MP Grant Robertson said "clearly we need to continue to ensure that the distribution chains within our health system work well" but the number of people already vaccinated showed the campaign was successful.
There were still 700,000 doses in the community yet to be administered so the Government was confident New Zealand had the supplies it needed, Robertson said.
"And there are more on the way.
"There is a good supply of flu vaccine."