Big queues for flu vaccine

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People wait in a large line of cars, hoping to receive a flu vaccine in Mosgiel yesterday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH

A Mosgiel doctor says the “crazy” reaction to the arrival of a batch of flu vaccines at his medical centre yesterday showed how anxious people were about Covid-19.

Supplies of the flu vaccine had been in short supply across the country since the first batches were distributed. Subsequent dispatches had been snapped up and many people and GPs were crying out for more.

When the Mosgiel Health Centre received a new batch on Tuesday and sent out a text message it would be having drive-through clinics yesterday, today and tomorrow, staff did not expect the chaos it created.

Hundreds of people queued for the vaccine, creating bumper to bumper traffic from the Inglis St health centre in all directions, and back to the railway lines on Gordon Rd and Bush Rd in the other direction.

Police were called to manage traffic.

Dr Robert Morton said the way people reacted showed there was an urgency and anxiety around getting the vaccine.

“It has been crazy, there are a lot of cars out there.

“People are very worried about Covid-19, and they’ve been told a flu vaccine is a way they can help themselves, so it makes sense they’re wanting it as soon as possible.

“They don’t want to overload the health system and equally want to look after themselves.

“Particularly out here [in Mosgiel], we have a lot of people in that vulnerable category.”

Aurora Health Centre doctor Jill McIlrath said the South Dunedin practice was only able to order about 60 vaccines each week.

“We have about 1500 patients who are in the vulnerable category who we have been working to get vaccinated.”

The clinic had administered 587 vaccinations so far, and was having to tell people to wait until more arrived.

“The demand is double what it would normally be.

“We have the manpower to vaccinate, we just don’t have the vaccine.”

The centre was fielding large numbers of inquiries from people, a small number of whom were aggressively demanding the vaccine.

“Getting a flu vaccine is a way people can control the situation, so they are very anxious in wanting to get that done.

“People need to be patient, we are getting there, just slower than we would like to.”

Dunedin city councillor Sophie Barker had been trying to get the vaccine at her local doctor without luck.

She was classed as immuno-compromised, having lost her spleen as a teenager.

“I thought it would be a reasonably easy process.

“I called my doctor’s office and they said there were not any available at the moment, and they didn’t know when it was going to arrive.”

She then rang a pharmacy and was told she could get a vaccine the following morning.

“I’m wondering why they seem to have more than doctor’s clinics.”

The New Zealand Herald last week reported the holders of 500,000 missing doses (sitting in the fridges of wholesalers, travel and occupational health providers who had ordered large quantities before the vaccine became available on the private market) had been instructed to redistribute the vaccines.

When a vaccine was administered it was registered with the Immunisation Advisory Centre, so the Ministry of Health knew where the doses were, director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said.

“We’re playing an active role in ensuring they’re redistributed around the country.”

Otago Daily Times