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Covid-19 vaccine stocks will be rationed for the next few weeks to try to avoid New Zealand running out.
The Otago Daily Times reported yesterday that district health boards had been asked to slow down their rate of vaccinations, which was confirmed by the Ministry of Health later in the day.
"Stocks will be tight for the next five weeks and we have planned carefully to manage our way through," director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said.
“Current bookings will not be affected, but DHBs are likely to have to manage the rate of new bookings to ensure they are delivering in line with their current plans, where to date many have been running ahead of plan for some time."
Last night, southern GPs were advised first and second doses for people in Group 1 and 2 remained a priority, and that Group 3 bookings would be maintained "at a steady rate for the next five weeks."
"Even though this is a more tightly managed phase, DHBs will continue to administer more than 100,000 doses per week," an email to clinics said.
"This means we will administer more than half a million doses in the next five weeks.
"In comparison, it took us three months to deliver the first half a million doses."
The Pfizer vaccine requires two shots to be effective; the second shot is recommended to be given between 21 and 42 days after the first shot.
At the start of this week, New Zealand only had 189,660 doses of vaccine in the country, almost half the total available a fortnight ago.
Dr Bloomfield said a small number of deliveries were still expected this month, but the programme was entering a "more tightly controlled phase" until an expected million doses of vaccine arrived in New Zealand during July.
Yesterday, Dunedin people continued to report vaccination booking waits.
A 52-year-old Dunedin man, in Group 3 because he has a heart condition, said he was notified by text yesterday that he should make a booking for his vaccination.
When he made the booking online, the first appointment available was on July 19.
Cromwell GP Greg White said his clinic was booked for vaccinations for the next four weeks, but could not make bookings after that.
"We are only doing 50-60 a week, but could do 10 times this amount ...
"We are having to manually book in and field phone calls from nearly every person, and we are not allowed to use our own software and booking system.
A "top-down approach" pushed on GPs was "hugely time-consuming, inefficient, and frustrating", he said.
Dr White said doctors were committed to the vaccination programme so the pandemic could be ended, but called the national campaign "a complete dog’s breakfast from our perspective".
Clunky bureaucracy, such as an inefficient booking administration system and maintaining the nationally mandated Covid-19 register, meant twice as many staff as normal were needed to run vaccine clinics, he said.
"We have no more idea than the public about our vaccine supply.
"We do get daily emails, but they all just say the same thing and say everything is proceeding ‘as planned’."
SDHB Covid-19 vaccine roll-out incident controller Hamish Brown said booking capacity in the region needed to be managed to cope with the estimated 110,000 people in Group 3.
"If we needed to change appointments for any reason, we would contact people individually to reschedule rather than cancel them.
"We are not anticipating the need to reschedule appointments based on vaccine supply issues."
Yesterday, the ODT reported some patients had been told that vaccines were in short supply when they called an 0800 information line.
Mr Brown said he had checked with the providers of the service and it appeared no-one at the service had given such advice.
"Some GP clinics may be indicating to people that no appointments are currently available as some areas have filled all available appointments and we are working to confirm schedules for August to allow future booking to continue."
Asked if there was a risk some people who had had their first shot might have problems obtaining their second shot, Mr Brown said the southern booking system prompted patients to book in for them to be administered both doses of the vaccine.
"They are also able to log back in or call back to change the appointments if inconvenient, maintaining the minimum 21-day gap."
A vaccination programme for southern Maori and Pasifika people opens for patients next week.
A collaboration between the SDHB and Maori health providers Te Uru Whare Hauora, Awarua Whanau Services, Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu Charitable Trust and Otakou Health Limited, the programme opens its first clinic in Alexandra on Tuesday.
At least 13 more clinics are planned to open across Otago and Southland before September.
- There were five new cases of Covid-19 reported in managed isolation and quarantine facilities yesterday and two people in a stable condition in Middlemore Hospital, both transferred from an Auckland quarantine facility.