Source: New Zealand Ministry of Health
To ensure efficiency in the COVID-19 vaccine delivery district health boards are using different approaches, appropriate to their specific regional delivery models, to ensure as much of the available vaccine as possible is used.
One of the unique logistical challenges of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine is that once a dose of the vaccine reaches above -70 degrees it will expire in five days even when kept in a fridge.
Once the vaccine has been removed from the fridge it must be mixed within two hours and then used within six hours.
New Zealand’s border and MIQ workers are our first line of defence – that is why we need to protect them and the families they live with first, with the vaccine roll-out.
However the requirements of keeping the border and our MIQ facilities fully operational 24/7 means that only part of that workforce can be freed up at any one time.
This means that in Auckland metro DHBs, when a batch of vaccine is a day away from expiry, the local immunisation team process is to first ask employers at MIQ and the airport and port if any of their workforce can be made available to get their vaccination in the next 24 hours in addition to the scheduled vaccinations that day.
The team is also then asking the local DHBs for a standby list of frontline healthcare workers – including hospital staff, primary care, and community testing centre workforce – who can be individually invited to fill any remaining vaccination appointments at short notice.
Invitations to the standby list have been extended to individual frontline hospital staff, and individual community healthcare workers including Mâori primary care providers, Pacific primary care providers and community testing centres.
This approach enables Auckland DHB to keep appointment slots open for border and MIQ workers as long as possible but to also minimise any potential wastage of the vaccine.
In Christchurch a standby list of people within the MIF or Port facility who can be called in at short notice is used.
In Wellington the immunisation teams are addressing the same issue by over-booking for the vaccine and the DHB is also looking at generating a standby appointment system.
The vaccine is a precious commodity and its special properties present challenges different from our usual vaccines.
Our goal is to make our vaccination process as efficient as possible to ensure the best use of the vaccine available.