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Cold storage bungle cost Queensland 6,700 Pfizer vaccines, delayed rollout

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While Queensland Health focuses on Pfizer, it is diverting its supply of AstraZeneca vaccines to GPs to administer.

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Defending the pace of the vaccination rollout today, Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the recommendation that people under 50 have Pfizer instead of AstraZeneca had prompted changes to the program.

By the end of next week, every hospital and health service in Queensland will have a special-purpose freezer, and trained and accredited staff, to roll out the Pfizer vaccine. Staff are also preparing to do outreach from these hubs, including to remote Aboriginal communities; some 1,000 Pfizer vaccines have already arrived on Thursday Island to allow staff to restart vaccinations on May 17.

However, D’Ath confirmed 6,700 vaccines in Cairns and Townsville were unable to be used because they had been allowed to overheat late last month before they could be administered to patients.

“When vaccines are spoilt through a breach of a cold chain supply, they are not delivered to us,” D’Ath said.

No further details were provided. D’Ath indicated the bungle occurred in the Commonwealth’s delivery of vaccines through its contracted delivery services.

With GPs demanding greater supply, Queensland Health has asked the Commonwealth to divert its doses of AstraZeneca to primary care to deliver, particularly while it regroups for the rollout of Pfizer to its own staff and younger populations.

D’Ath said, overall, Queensland had been delivering the third highest volume of vaccines in Australia. She was awaiting more detail of the Commonwealth’s promised supply of Moderna vaccines.

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