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For several years the Dunedin school has wanted to follow what is standard practice internationally and train its pharmacy students to deliver vaccinations.
The Ministry of Health wants new vaccinators to be trained but the Otago course would require an independent evaluator to accredit it, and no such person is available.
School of Pharmacy acting dean Prof Sarah Hook said the impasse was a matter of ongoing frustration.
"We could potentially graduate 120 to 150 people a year who would be able to administer vaccinations," she said.
"We have been battling since well before Covid, for many years, to try to get this course approved."
Prof Hook said she understood the ministry was busy even before the pandemic greatly increased its workload, but it seemed inflexible on the question.
"We have been trying for so long and every so often I get to the point where I think, ‘Oh just leave it’ but then I think of all the good that all our vaccinators could be doing and think that perhaps I shouldn’t give up."
Prof Hook said pharmacy students and their teachers felt that they could contribute more to the fight against Covid-19 , but were an unused resource.
"We’re at a bit of a stalemate at the moment," she said.
Ministry immunisation manager Kath Blair said the Auckland-based Immunisation Advisory Centre was the sole vaccinator training course provider in New Zealand.
"The ministry acknowledges the value in authorising new providers, and it notes that educational providers have an interest in this issue.
"However, there is currently no independent evaluator established to review new providers."
That person would have to investigate the Otago course to confirm it adhered to competency standards and fitted New Zealand’s overall immunisation requirements.
"As establishing an independent evaluator would demand significant resourcing, the ministry is unable to prioritise the development of such an entity in the immediate future," Ms Blair said.
It is understood that Otago is not the only school which wants to train vaccinators but has been unable to do so.
Prof Hook said Otago had a close relationship with the Immunisation Advisory Centre and that she had enormous respect for its work, but felt its commercial position as the sole vaccination trainer was the stumbling block to the university’s ambitions.
"They have a monopoly on training and the ministry can’t ask them to review and approve our course because they have a conflict of interest ... I think it’s the sort of situation we get in New Zealand because we are a small country.
"But we’ve had our material available to the ministry for two years, and it would be great to get our course approved."