A new booking system for Covid-19 vaccinations will be launched next week, as the Southern District Health board concedes the current procedure has caused problems and is confusing.
No national vaccination booking system existed, and southern health workers introducing the regional vaccination plan had been forced to use basic digital diaries, such as Outlook Calendar, to schedule appointments.
Border workers, frontline medical staff and their household contacts were the first people receiving the vaccine, which was given in two doses a fortnight apart.
Several contacted the Otago Daily Times to complain about the system.
Some complained about receiving multiple appointments while others said frontline staff in their medical centres had not been contacted at all.
“The Covid-19 vaccine rollout is a total shambles,” one primary health worker said.
SDHB staff managing the vaccination programme acknowledged there had been problems.
Karl Metzler, of Gore Health Ltd, said its team was “driving a Model T Ford but aiming for a Tesla”.
Despite the issues, vaccine rollout incident controller Hamish Brown said the SDHB should be confident the introduction plan was progressing well.
“There are numerous people who have been working long hours across the region to achieve this.
“We are ahead of progress.
“No doubt people have heard comment about our booking system and there is no doubt that remains a challenge as well.”
The SDHB was aware of the constraints posed by its system and hoped a new method of booking appointments would be in operation next week.
Ministry of Health figures showed the SDHB had dispensed 1 per cent more vaccinations than planned by this stage and ranked seventh out of 20 DHBs in terms of most first doses administered.
Finding vaccinators and other staff and then training them in time for the introduction of vaccines for the general public remained a major issue, although some new staff were set to begin next week, Brown said.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said delays in creating a national booking system were due to the early part of the vaccination campaign targeting a small group of workforces and their associates.
“DHBs are using their existing systems, so whatever system they used to book people in for the flu jab or for the measles vaccine and so on, they’re using those existing systems.
“When we get to the point where we’re rolling it out to everyone … that’s when we’re going to have a national booking system available.”
The new national system was expected to be introduced in mid to late April, although Hipkins said it was still being developed.
“Obviously each DHB is handling things differently, but we do ask them to try to keep wait times reasonable.
“We do ask them to make sure different time slots are available if people can’t make their time slots.”
— Additional reporting Daisy Hudson
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