The Office of the Auditor-General is concerned the country’s COVID-19 vaccine roll-out will take longer than planned.
Further to auditing the Ministry of Health between mid-February and mid-April, Auditor-General John Ryan concluded: “I am not yet confident that all the pieces will fall into place quickly enough for the programme to ramp up to the level required over the second half of 2021.
“There is a real risk that it will take more time than currently anticipated to get there…
“The Ministry has a high-level plan in place, but there is still a lot of work to do. Some aspects of the plan are still not fully developed.
“Information systems are still being worked on. If everything goes to plan these will be ready, but only just in time.”
Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said that by June, the Ministry is confident the vast majority of people in groups 1 and 2 will have been offered a vaccine, and there will be “real progress” vaccinating the 1.7 million people in group 3.
He confirmed that from July, the remaining general population aged 16 and over - group 4 - will be offered the vaccine. (See details on who is in these groups below).
However, Ryan said a “significant scale-up” is required to achieve the Government’s vaccination goals.
“New Zealand is in a good position with its contracted supply of vaccines. The Government has secured enough doses to vaccinate all New Zealanders and a number of Pacific countries,” the Office of the Auditor-General said.
“However, some uncertainty remains about exactly when the majority of doses will arrive in New Zealand over the rest of the year. This could affect the timing of the roll-out.
“The report describes some good early progress. At the time the audit was completed, nearly 400,000 doses had been administered.
“This progress has relied on current vaccination staff and systems. However, what is in place now will not be sufficient when the number of people to be vaccinated increases significantly over the second half of the year…
“Problems are inevitable in a programme of this scale and complexity. It is important that the Ministry continues to be transparent about the uncertainty and challenges ahead…
“At the time of the Office’s work, significant risks remained regarding having enough vaccinators; having an improved distribution model to ensure vaccine doses are delivered to the right place, at the right time, to minimise wastage; and ensuring that Maori, Pasifika, people with disabilities, and hard to reach communities are vaccinated.
“More work is needed to ensure contingency plans are in place in case of any disruption - such as with the vaccine supply, not having enough vaccinators, or a further community outbreak…
“The report makes six recommendations to help the Ministry of Health improve its communications with the public; complete its contingency plans; and provide more guidance and clarity to the wider health sector.”
The Ministry of Health said it had made a number of initial changes and improvements in all the areas the Auditor-General said needed strengthening.
“This was done at the time the report was being undertaken, or ahead of it being finalised. Some recommendations have been fully implemented or are largely complete,” Bloomfield said.
Examples of work undertaken include: expanding the amount of detailed roll-out data the Ministry publishes; working with DHBs on how they implement the sequencing framework; providing more clarity to health providers about their role in the roll-out and implementing a new public information strategy.
Here’s a summary of the COVID-19 vaccine strategy the Ministry released in March. Click on the magnifying glass icon to zoom in.