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Team appointed to investigate Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine storage failure

A three-person team has been appointed to investigate the cold chain storage failure affecting the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in Queenstown Lakes.

Vials of Corona vaccine from Biontech/Pfizer
File image. Photo: AFP

The error meant almost 1600 people in Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago may not have been fully protected after the doses were stored at an incorrect temperature.

The Southern DHB this afternoon announced the appointment of an independent review team from the DAA Group - a leading health and disability service assessor - and the review's terms of reference.

"The comprehensive review of the critical incident including examination of the relevant cold chain management processes has commenced. A variety of methodologies are being used including tracer methodology, root cause analysis, review of key documents, interviews, and review of relevant environments," the DHB said.

The review report would be provided to Southern DHB at the end of the month.

Of the 1576 people affected, Southern DHB had spoken to 90 percent by phone and 62 percent had now received a replacement dose.

About 4 percent had deferred their replacement dose due to Covid-19 infection or for other reasons, about 16 percent intended to get their replacement dose or were undecided, and 7 percent declined the replacement vaccination.

"Of the 151 people whom SDHB has not yet been able to speak with, emails, texts and letters have been sent," Southern DHB said.

"We are continuing attempts to contact this group by phone. The Southern DHB have become aware that for a small number of people contact details have changed, therefore there will be people who have not received sufficient information regarding this incident and their need for a replacement dose.

"The Southern DHB asks people who have not been contacted and who received their Covid-19 vaccination between 1 December 2021 and 28 January 2022 in Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago, at locations other than pharmacies or GPs, to call 0800 28 29 26 to check the status of their vaccination. People who received their vaccination at a pharmacy or GP are not affected by this isolated incident.

"People affected by the vaccine storage issue are encouraged to receive a replacement vaccination to ensure that they benefit from a high level of immunity against Covid-19."

There was no risk of harm to those who received a vaccine stored at an incorrect temperature, however, the vaccine was not considered potent nor to produce a reliable level of immunity.

"We would like to reassure people in the area that this was an isolated incident, and the affected provider has ceased all vaccination activity pending the outcome of a full investigation," the DHB said.

"People affected by this incident who wish to book their replacement vaccination should call 0800 28 29 26 (seven days a week, 8am to 8pm) for more information."