19 Oct 2021

Frustration as EDs unable to administer Covid-19 vaccine

11:22 am on 19 October 2021

Most hospital emergency departments are not offering patients Covid-19 vaccinations even though it's a perfect opportunity to reach people normally outside the health system.

Hospitals set up in preparation for Covid-19

File photo. Photo: Ministry of Health / Supplied

Emergency doctors are keen to make it happen but acknowledge it is complicated.

RNZ understands some emergency department staff in Auckland are incredibly frustrated because they're encountering vulnerable, unvaccinated patients who would be happy to have one on the spot.

The Australasian College of Emergency Medicine president John Bonning said most hospital emergency departments were not vaccinating for Covid-19.

The College supported that happening, especially to help mop-up the tail end of the vaccination roll out, he said.

"There is no doubt that some people's only contact with their health system is when they become acutely unwell and come to an emergency department, so it's definitely a group we want to target," he said.

However Dr Bonning, who works on the shop floor at Waikato Hospital, acknowledged it was complicated to get ED vaccinations up and running.

The departments were already very busy, particularly nurses who would be giving the vaccinations, and the Pfizer vaccine could be tricky logistically.

It had to be stored very cold and once the six-dose vials were opened, any doses not used could spoil quickly and go to waste, he said.

But it was something the doctors were keen to keep working to make happen, he said.

Emergency departments already regularly gave vaccinations for disease like tetanus and some gave children their regular vaccinations if they were behind schedule.

RNZ understands Waitematā DHB is not offering the vaccinations, and is waiting for a response from Auckland DHB about its policies.

Counties Manukau Health chief medical officer Dr Pete Watson said vaccinations were offered to patients in its hospital wards including the Emergency Department.

"Emergency Departments are challenging environments and patients may not always be able to be clinically cleared or give their consent," Watson said.

The DHB had established a mobile vaccination team for hospital patients and outpatient clinics, including dialysis units. Arrangements hade been made to offer vaccinations at DHB sites in the community such as birthing units and the Auckland Regional Spinal Unit.

Watson said mobile teams vaccinated 115 inpatients at Middlemore Hospital last week.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs