Chris Bishop disclosed “leaked” information that said New Zealand was 300,000 overdue for vaccines. Parliamentary Video / TV
“Shambolic” is how a resting boss describes the launch of the Covid-19 and influenza vaccines.
The elderly and workers are in priority category two and, according to the government schedule, are expected to start getting the Covid-19 vaccine from March.
On Thursday, the Elderly Care Association told RNZ that the Government needs to provide certainty around the date.
Allan Sargeant, who runs three Auckland vacation homes, said winter delays were approaching and bureaucracy was putting its vulnerable residents at risk.
“Totally messy. That’s one word I can use. It’s the only word that describes what’s happening in the industry right now.
“We were given, on March 5 after the February cluster, we were given an email asking for data collection for our staff – details for frontline health workers so they could be vaccinated as soon as possible.
“We were only given two days or three days to pass the information on to DHB.”
On March 18, they were advised to give Covid-19 vaccination before influenza vaccination.
Since then, Sargeant told RNZ he has been waiting for information from the Auckland District Health Council on when the Covid-19 vaccine will be available to residents in his retirement home.
“On March 25 I asked for updates and programs: ‘give me a date. I don’t care if it’s April or May, give me a date so I can find out what we were doing’.
“Yesterday there were none of them. More requests and finally we decided that we had to give the influenza vaccine before the Covid-19 vaccine.
“When you have the Covid vaccine, you have to get the second dose 21 days after the first dose. And then you have to wait 14 days before you get the influenza vaccine.
“Even if they start in the next few weeks, with Covid-19 before influenza, we won’t be able to vaccinate our vulnerable population with influenza vaccinations until sometime in June. And that’s totally unacceptable.”
The Transtasman bubbles add even more pressure
The temperature had already dropped in Auckland as winter approached, said Sargeant.
“And there are coughs and colds coming from some of our residents and staff.
“Now is usually the time we will do the influenza vaccination. What has improved it for everyone in our facility and all our residents and families is that the transtasman bubble is about to open, and that increases the risk for our residents. traveling from Australia, and they may carry the flu-type virus without being detected. “
He said elderly care providers must look after vulnerable people.
“We are their only protectors. So you know we need information about how to make good decisions, but it won’t come. It’s ridiculous.”
He is responsible for 152 residents in three locations, including two high-risk dementia units and about 160 staff.
Sargeant said he was frustrated that he wanted to do his planning and he also had a family ask him about vaccinations for their loved ones.
“The lack of information is astonishing.”
He said yesterday he was aware of the launch of the Auckland metro area by the North Regional Health Coordination Center for Auckland.
This contradicts previous information, he said. The rest home is in South Auckland and they had previously been told after the city’s February Covid-19 cluster that the South Auckland area would be prioritized so they expect vaccinations to start in early April.
Staffing, storage problems
Sargeant has heard that the Ministry of Health is having problems with the staff and storage of the vaccine cold chain.
“I just don’t know if they’re equipped to launch something this big.”
He said when Auckland goes into a level 2 or 3 lockout, the rest house goes into a level 4 lockout.
“So that means there are no visitors, the mental health of our families and the residents themselves who suffer every time we go into lockdown. You know, with limited visits or no visits, it is really stressful for everyone, and it can only be reduced. by giving the Covid vaccine faster. “
He has a simple request for service.
“Get ready to act and come up with a plan. I can plan in a day. It’s not rocket science. You have a team of people going around the facility, handing out vaccines …”
He said the spreadsheets could be arranged, the facilities could be done sequentially and each one would be given a date.
He said some doctors already have the flu vaccine but are not allowed to start giving it to people over the age of 65 to April 14. The remaining supplies for those under 65 will not arrive in the country until May.
Asked if he was at his wits end, Sargeant said he also felt frustration from his clinical team as well.
“They are doing a selfless duty to look after the most vulnerable people in our society and they are asking for help and some guidance on this matter and the information is absurd and as I said at the start, messy. We cannot understand the direct and answer. it was so frustrating and I had the frustration come from them when they were trying to protect these people. “
Invitation to staff from next week – coordination center
In a statement to RNZ, the North Regional Health Coordination Center said that invitations would start sending out early next week to nursing home care staff to be vaccinated at one of its community vaccination centers.
“We are also planning outreach vaccination teams to vaccinate the nursing home population. We will start this vaccination in the next few weeks. We will start in South Auckland as this is highlighted by the Government as a priority area to reduce the chance of future outbreaks given its location. to a border access point. “
The statement also said elderly care facilities were at the top of the priority list. If they can finish their flu shots by April 23, they should move on.
The coordination center said it was working very hard on the vaccination launch, the largest single logistical exercise the health system has ever handled. Once a confirmed start date for the Covid-19 vaccine is available, the elderly care sector will know.
Decisions based on vaccine availability – ministries
In response, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health said it set a start date for the program based on information from suppliers about vaccine availability, and based on feedback from sectors they need stocks to arrive before the start of the program.
“We know that distribution is taking longer to some parts of the country and it is important that all providers have stock before the start date.
“The program start date for people aged 65 and over remains April 14th. Having a national start date is important because it allows nationwide consistent messaging and equitable access to vaccines across the country.”