Vaccine cold chain failure report released

The accreditation for a vaccine provider at the centre of Covid-19 vaccine cold chain failure had lapsed, a report on the incident says.

In March it was discovered that the efficacy of about 1500 vaccinations given to Queenstown-Lakes and Central Otago residents was in doubt due to a failure by vaccination provider Engage Safety Ltd (ESL) to keep the Pfizer vaccine at its correct temperature.

A Southern District Health Board commissioned independent report into the incident was released this afternoon.

It found that ESL’s cold chain accreditation had expired in November 2021 and that despite ongoing attempts by the firm to arrange an accreditation appointment one was not confirmed.

‘‘In early February, a decision was made mutually by (an immunisation co-ordinator) and ESL to delay cold chain accreditation renewal until the installation of a new vaccine fridge, planned for later in the month in ESL’s new premises,’’ the report said.

‘‘Prior to this, vaccines were kept in a vaccine fridge at the home of the directors of ESL.’’

An accreditation visit finally happened on March 2, and found discrepancies with fridge temperature monitoring over the previous two months, and that the complete manual record of fridge temperatures prior to January 4 was missing.

The 1500 questionable vaccinations were administered between December 1 and January 28.

‘‘Had the cold chain accreditation renewal been completed in November 2021, the potential cold chain failure in December 2021 and January 2022 may not have been discovered at this time or at all,’’ the report said.

‘‘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 SDHB started trying to track down all people affected by the incident as soon as it was discovered: 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 recommended that ESL improve temperature monitoring procedures, that the SDHB review if it had enough immunisation co-ordinators, and that the status of cold chain accreditation of vaccination providers be updated monthly.