- On July 14, 2020
- July / August 2020
Vaccine Supply and Distribution Concerns
The supply and distribution of flu vaccines this year has been significantly challenging for general practitioners. COVID-19 complexities have exacerbated known challenges, highlighted deficiencies in systems, and created more difficulties than experienced in previous years.
AMA (NSW) is working with NSW Health to address vaccine supply and distribution issues, which have greatly impacted general practices in 2020.
It is recognised that Government ordering for NIP vaccines occurred prior to the full impact of the pandemic being known, and demand has understandably been earlier and considerably higher than expected.
However, GPs are increasingly frustrated by flu vaccine availability and blame a combination of factors, including poor planning by the Ministry – particularly regarding the timing of public messaging being well prior to appropriate NIP vaccine availability, the difficulties and confusion in the ordering process, and the infrequency of deliveries. These issues can then exacerbate inaccurate ordering of limited stock by practices. As well, storage limitations for many medical practices have meant supply must be small but frequent – which has been difficult to sustain.
It is also recognised that due to the uncoordinated patient messaging, Government supply and distribution issues, appropriate recommended vaccination of vulnerable groups has been adversely impacted by pharmacists’ early access to private flu vaccine. Doctors are concerned that allowing pharmacists to administer vaccines fragments care, thus creating gaps in care. Vaccine information is not always uploaded onto patient records and it’s a lost opportunity for general practitioners to have a health check with patients.
Pharmacists’ early access to vaccines and early promotion has other downstream effects – an added cost and risk to those entitled to free vaccines that are age appropriate not having the benefit of the added influenza cover as recommended. This could create an added public health burden as well as patient vulnerability.
Greater focus is needed on provision of adequate and timely supplies.
AMA (NSW) is recommending general practitioners have greater lead time to order vaccine supplies, and communications from NSW Health and PHNs regarding ordering starts earlier in the year.
AMA (NSW) recognises the importance of getting the logistics right for practices and suggests PHNs could provide assistance to GPs on how much stock to order, storage capacity needs, and re-ordering as necessary.
The organisation is also recommending greater consistency, coordination and accurate promotion of appropriate vaccines for patients.
AMA (NSW) has requested both the Department of Health and NSW Health recognise the supply pressures faced by medical practitioners and in future years delay flu vaccine awareness and promotion campaigns until distribution is well underway.
We have experienced record high levels of vaccination, but our focus is now firmly on making sure our most vulnerable are able to access vaccines this year, and that in future years supply is more streamlined.