June 11, 2019
Much to our horror there is a national shortage of flu vaccines. We are now being given a very limited stock and are only allowed to administer them to those most at risk of flu and who are therefore entitled to a free flu vaccination. Whilst we can understand that the very limited supply left in the country needs to go to the most at risk, it really is very disappointing that those who would sensibly choose to be vaccinated are now being denied. We normally really try to promote flu vaccination to all.
Whilst primary care providers have invested tremendous time and resources into vaccine promotion, PHARMAC unfortunately underestimated the number required for this year's flu season. So far over 1.25 million vaccines have been given, to over a quarter of the population. This matches the total amount given throughout the whole of 2018. Disappointingly we only learned of the shortage late on Friday – having been told there was just some delivery issues with vaccinations post Queen's Birthday prior to this.
Hopefully there will be enough vaccinations for pregnant women, the over 65 year olds, the under 4 year olds with respiratory problems and those with severe heart disease, lung disease or cancer. We are being drip fed these vaccines and our nurse manager has been tearing her hair out trying to get supplies in a timely fashion. We have not been able to source any of the vaccine for under 3-year olds this week but continue to push for it.
We share the frustration and anger of those who have been unable to be vaccinated. Please do not blame our staff, we are unfortunately at the mercy of Pharmac on this. If you wish to make a complaint, please direct it straight to Pharmac or to the Ministry of Health.
It is very regrettable that this comes whilst we have insufficient MMR vaccinations, so we are also being limited in who we can protect against measles in the middle of a measles outbreak. The current distribution - 1.29 million at the time of publishing - was the highest recorded number of vaccines distributed so early in winter, according to Williams.
That was only around 26 per cent of the whole population receiving the vaccination just 10 days into the cold season.
It was also in line with the total doses distributed throughout winter in 2018, and was higher than distributions in 2016 and 2017, according to Pharmac.
A Pharmac spokesperson explained the shortage wasn't a result of New Zealand having fewer vaccines available overall, instead, it was the increased uptake of Kiwis receiving the vaccination that caused the shortage.