More than half the country’s 20 DHBs don’t know how many of their frontline health staff have been vaccinated against Covid-19, which an expert warns puts the country at further risk in any potential outbreak.
The Herald can reveal that 12 DHBs are not collecting data on whether their staff have received the Covid jab.
There is also no protocol in place across the DHBs requiring staff to be vaccinated while treating patients suspected or confirmed to have Covid-19.
This has drawn criticism from University of Otago epidemiologist Nick Wilson, who says it wastes the extra layer of protection vaccination provides frontline health staff.
National’s Covid-19 response spokesman Chris Bishop was stunned by the revelations last night.
“I just find that astonishing, unbelievable.”
The DHBs not collecting staff vaccination data are Hawke’s Bay, Mid Central, Northland, Tairāwhiti, Taranaki, Waikato, Whanganui, Canterbury, Nelson-Marlborough, South Canterbury, West Coast and Southern (Southern DHB is currently planning to collect this data).
The remaining DHBs; Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Capital and Coast, Counties Manukau, Hutt Valley, Lakes, Wairarapa and Waitematā are actively collecting vaccination data on their staff.
A spokeswoman for DHBs, from a Wellington-based health sector advisory and programme management organisation called TAS, was able to provide vaccination data as at May 19 from six DHBs:
• Lakes: 93 per cent of staff had received their first vaccine dose, 72 per cent had received two doses;
• Auckland: 86 per cent of staff had one dose, 76 per cent had received two doses;
• Counties Manukau: 86.1 per cent of staff had one dose, 69.7 per cent had received two doses;
• Waitematā: 85 per cent of staff had received at least one dose;
• Capital and Coast: 81 per cent of staff had received at least one dose;
• Hutt Valley: 78 per cent of staff had received at least one dose.
The spokeswoman said the three Auckland DHBs began recording the data earlier than most, while others were expected to begin at some point.
She noted many DHBs were receiving staff consent to record their vaccination status in their Occupational Health Records, as they did for other vaccinations like influenza.
However, even for DHBs with recorded staff vaccination data, there was no protocol requiring a staff member to be vaccinated when treating a patient suspected or confirmed to have the Covid-19 virus.
Guidance on this matter was in the final stages of development, the spokeswoman said.
She emphasised that strict health and safety protocols were already in place to treat Covid-19 positive patients.
However, Wilson said protocols to ensure any suspected positive Covid patients were treated by vaccinated staff should have been confirmed months ago.
“That should be a national policy that any suspected Covid cases are managed by vaccinated staff,” he said.
“If staff in hospitals and in frontline health service roles aren’t vaccinated then they need to be assigned other roles where they’re not at risk, not only them but the whole community, because we know personal protective equipment is not perfect and accidents happen.”
But he pointed out that such a policy would be rendered useless if DHBs did not hold data on which staff were vaccinated.
The Herald asked Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins if vaccination data should have been collected sooner or whether a national policy should have been created, but he declined to comment.
Bishop said DHBs were ultimately in charge of the vaccine rollout and should have this data at hand.
“I just find it staggering frankly, and another example of things that most reasonablepeople would expect the Government to be doing.”
Bishop supported the idea of a national policy requiring staff to be vaccinated when treating Covid positive patients.
The DHB vaccination figures were provided after the Herald’s original request on May 10 to all 20 DHBs for data on how many staff had declined vaccinations.
Covid-19 vaccine and immunisation programme national director Jo Gibbs said it was too early to comment on the level of declines as the rollout to frontline healthcare workers was ongoing.
As at May 12, 132,875 frontline healthcare workers had received their first vaccinations.
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