Failure by the Southern District Health Board to properly accredit a vaccination provider which administered potentially ineffective Covid-19 vaccinations might have been a blessing in disguise.
An independent report into a cold chain breach by Queenstown vaccination provider Engage Safety Ltd (ESL) which affected about 1500 people was released by the board yesterday.
It found that potential cold chain failures in December 2021 and January 2022 might not have been detected at that time, or at all, if ESL had been inspected for accreditation in November 2021, when it should have been.
"Equally, if all cold chain management processes were in place as required, downloading of data and appropriate action in early December would have prevented the resultant breaches," the report said.
The 1500 questionable vaccinations were administered between December 1 and January 28, but the cold store failure was not discovered until early March.
The report said that during the two periods when ESL’s cold storage system potentially failed, the Covid-19 vaccination drive was in full swing and "over that time the environment has been described as ‘chaotic’ with a large amount of activity within the business".
ESL directors had stored the vaccine fridges at their home, intending to move them to new premises in February.
Despite two data loggers and a temperature monitor on the fridges, ESL was unable to explain discrepancies in the downloads from the data loggers.
"The complete manual record of vaccine fridge temperature monitoring prior to January 4 2022 was missing."
Once the problem was eventually discovered in March, the board started tracking those affected by the incident.
To date, 92% of affected people have been contacted, and 64% of them have had a replacement dose of vaccine.
The board has been unable to contact 123 people.
The report said communication between ESL and the SDHB "appears to have been intermittent and at times tense."
The SDHB did not track cold chain accreditation in its quality improvement programme, and its accreditation programme was not being maintained in a crisis situation, a national pandemic, the report said.
Board chief executive Chris Fleming said the report’s recommendations would improve all southern immunisation programmes.