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It is also understood at least 300 people did not turn up for their appointments at the city’s largest vaccination centre in one day alone this week, but a Southern District Health Board spokeswoman said it could not confirm any no-show figures.
The board has repeatedly urged people to cancel their booking if they no longer require it, but will not elaborate in any depth on why this message is being pushed.
Roslyn Pharmacy immunisation co-ordinator Alex Svejkar said it had experienced a noticeable increase in no-shows recently, particularly on Monday and Tuesday.
That was due to people taking advantage of drive-through clinics, which was ‘‘great’’, but then forgetting to cancel their existing booking, she said.
Another reason was Book My Vaccine reminder texts had been temporarily disabled.
Ms Svejkar said she understood the Ministry of Health had temporarily disabled the texts to take pressure off Auckland during lockdown, particularly after the flooding.
She said she understood why that had to be done, but said it had made a ‘‘massive’’ impact on the number of appointments being missed.
The Otago Daily Times asked the Ministry of Health multiple questions on Thursday, including about the disabling of texts, but after repeated questions a spokeswoman said it would not be able to respond by the end of yesterday.
Ms Svejkar said, luckily, the pharmacy had mostly been able to avoid waste as it had been able to find people to give spare vaccines to.
She was also able to look at the files of those booked in, which would indicate if they had gone to a drive-through centre, and pre-empt their cancellation or no-show.
‘‘We have got next to no waste because of that.’’
Ms Svejkar said vaccines were prepared ahead of appointments and required half an hour to thaw.
Once the vaccine was drawn into the syringe, it had to be used within six hours or thrown out.
Pharmacies generally said they drew down vaccine doses in the morning and afternoon to avoid as much waste as possible from no-shows.
A pharmacist from Unichem Centre City Pharmacy in Dunedin also confirmed they had experienced ‘‘a lot’’ of no-shows recently.
At worst, 25% of their daily bookings had not turned up.
He said each vial made up six vaccines, meaning vaccines had to be made up six at a time. The risk of wastage was then compounded when people did not show up to their appointments.
Despite the best efforts to find people to give spare doses to, there had inevitably been some wastage, he said.
Aurora Health Centre GP Dr Jill McIlraith said they had experienced some no-shows but were not ‘‘too worried’’ as they had been able to find other people to administer the spares vaccines to.
When the Otago Daily Times tried to check its understanding 300 people had not turned up to Meridian appointments on one day earlier this week, a health board spokeswoman responded the board was aware there had been an increase in missed appointments since Alert Level 4, but was unable to provide specific numbers.
She was able to say 900 people were vaccinated at the Meridian on Tuesday.
Some people were choosing walk-in and drive-in options because they were more accessible than the Meridian, and health board workers had worked at those clinics to support those efforts, she said.
She said the impact of missed appointments affected staff planning more than created vaccine wastage, because the vaccine was drawn up to demand throughout the day. However, she did not elaborate on that statement.
Questions have to be supplied in writing, and the board did not respond to queries about what wastage was specifically being created by the no-shows in the Southern area.
The board declined a request to talk to a staff member directly about any of the questions put by the newspaper.
The spokeswoman referred to national vaccine wastage information that showed a ‘‘very low’’ level of vaccine waste.
Director of public health Dr Caroline McElnay
said yesterday’s total of 28 new cases of Covid-19, made up of 27 cases in Auckland and one in Wellington, was encouraging, but people could not afford to become complacent. — Additional reporting Wyatt Ryder