Praise for flu vaccine roll-out

Pharmacists across the South believe the Ministry of Health has handled this year’s roll-out of flu jabs well, despite trying circumstances and shortages.

Health professionals spoken to by the Otago Daily Times yesterday all praised the ministry’s approach to managing the availability of flu vaccinations in the wake of the heightened alert due to Covid-19.

Medical practices and pharmacies are working to contact people deemed as "high priority" — those over 65 and those with pre-existing medical conditions — before rolling out the vaccine to the general public.

Unichem Alexandra Pharmacy and Bookshop pharmacist Alyssa Heller said the pandemic situation had led to a shortage of flu vaccinations and that had led to distribution being carefully managed.

"We have a specific list of clients to deal with first and around the start of May we will deal with the general public."

Vaccinations were being done in the pharmacy’s car park by a vaccinator in full personal protective equipment, Miss Heller said.

In Queenstown, Unichem Remarkables Park Pharmacy pharmacist Cohen Nash said the situation had prompted some in the high-priority group to be more vigilant.

"Before, they maybe got it every second year, but this is good because it places less pressure on the health system."

The funding for the inoculation had also been opened this year to include pregnant women, he said.

Cromwell Pharmacy owner and pharmacist Jackie Hamilton said this year’s roll-out of flu vaccination had been handled well "under the circumstances".

She believed there could be a positive spin-off from lockdown.

"We would expect there to be far less bugs this year because of social distancing and I think that’s a great thing."

Vaccinations were also being carried out by staff wearing personal protective equipment.

At Oamaru Pharmacy dispensary manager Fiona Gould said the supply was restricted to the same high-priority category and more vaccines were on order and demand had been high.

At Bates Pharmacy in Balclutha, pharmacist Ngaire Taylor said vaccinations were being handled collaboratively between the pharmacy and medical practices.

She believed there might have been shortages affecting practices but the pharmacy’s supplies were lasting the distance.

At Invercargill’s Countdown Pharmacy Covid-19 had put paid to plans to administer the vaccine this year because the pandemic had meant training someone was out of the question, a spokeswoman said.

Aspiring Medical Centre doctors and practice nurses were unavailable to comment yesterday.

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