COVID-19

CEO stood down after vaccine overdose scandal

In a statement the company which holds a government contract to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to nursing homes residents said an interim CEO with extensive experience in the health sector will be appointed soon.“We will also further strengthen the Healthcare Australia management team with additional executive support,” the company said.“The health and wellbeing of all patients in our care is our absolute priority and we continue to work with relevant health departments to guarantee the ongoing effectiveness of the vaccination program rollout,” the company said. “We share the community’s serious concerns about the incident involving two patients at the Holy Spirit nursing home in Brisbane and have immediately commenced an internal review to determine how it occurred,” it said.“We apologise unreservedly to the patients and their families involved for the distress this has caused and assure the community that the error was isolated and will not be repeated,” the company said in a statement.Health Minister Greg Hunt told parliament he was aware of the move and the company was “installing new management” following the scandal.“In addition, at the government’s request, the former chief nursing and midwifery office of Australia has been installed to oversee clinical guidance,” Mr Hunt said.“In addition, there has been a review of the mandated and required training which was part of contract, of the company which it was in breach of, and that it has been confirmed that every person involved with the clinical role in the vaccine has completed their training.” Earlier Mr Hunt said the elderly patients who received the incorrect dose earlier this week were not suffering any adverse effects and the 94 year old woman would be returning to her aged care home on Thursday afternoon.The 88 year old man who was overdosed will remain in hospital in preparation for elective surgery that was unrelated to the vaccine mishap, he said.The company that employed the doctor who had not undertaken the required COVID-19 vaccine training had been put on notice of potential termination, Mr Hunt said.The company had bought in additional senior management and the former Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer of Australia had been installed as the clinical lead in the company, he said.Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd said his investigation showed the overdose was human error but a “serious error”.“This error should not have happened and we apologise to the residents and their families, and the carers at the facility for the stress this has caused,” Professor Kidd said.Queensland’s health ombudsman will determine whether to refer the doctor at the centre of the overdose incident to the medical watchdog the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, Professor Kidd said.“This was a breach of the clinical standards,” Mr Hunt said.Vaccines WorldThe government will add an additional vaccine provider for nursing homes in Queensland and another in NSW in the wake of the overdose incident, Mr Hunt said.Mr Hunt revealed that as of yesterday evening more than 17,500 vaccinations had been delivered to health and quarantine workers and aged care residents since the roll out began on Sunday.The overdose incident by the Health Care Australia doctor led to a slowdown in the vaccine rollout by that provider and might delay by three days the government meeting its target of vaccinating the residents in the first 240 aged care homes, Mr Hunt said.“But by the end of the second week we’re expecting to be on track and by the end of the six weeks we’re expecting to be fully on track,” he said. ‘SURPRISING’ ASTRAZENECA VACCINE TWISTThe Astra Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine may be more effective at preventing hospitalisation and death than the Pfizer vaccine the Health Department has told general practitioners.The Health Department official in charge of the vaccine rollout in primary care Dr Lucas De Toca told doctors in a briefing today new evidence about the effectiveness of the vaccines in the real world was “surprising”.Early clinical trials of AstraZeneca’s vaccine showed it was only 62 per cent effective while the Pfizer vaccine was 95 per cent effective.But new research on the use of the vaccines in 5 million people in Scotland showed AstraZeneca was 92 per cent effective at preventing hospitalisation and death, Pfizer was only 88 per cent effective, he said.Dr De Toca said the new effectiveness data showed there was an “immaterial difference” between the vaccines “they’re both incredibly effective at preventing hospitalization and death,” he said.PM FACES COVID VACCINE CRISIS The Prime Minister is facing a possible crisis in public confidence over the COVID-19 vaccine, after a huge error resulted in two aged-care residents being overdosed.An investigation was called into how a Brisbane doctor injected the elderly residents with “four times” the required dose of the Pfizer jab, with no formal training. Opposition aged-care and health spokesman Mark ­Butler said the incident called into question Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s ability to instil public confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine.Mr Butler said confidence “in this vaccine rollout is crucial, and to maintain that confidence, the government simply has to do better than this,” Mr Butler said, according toThe Australian.It came as the Queensland doctor who gave two elderly aged care residents an incorrect Pfizer vaccine dose had not completed the required training to administer the jab. Health Minister Greg Hunt appeared in parliament to correct the record and apologise after initially telling the House the doctor had completed the training modules. “The advice I have just received from Deputy Medical Officer Dr Michael Kidd provides a correction to that which was previously provided to me,” Mr Hunt.“The revised advice is that on further investigation, Healthcare Australia has now advised that the doctor had not completed the required training. “This is being investigated by Healthcare Australia and we are expecting a report later today.Mr Hunt said Healthcare Australia has advised all the other workers had completed the training. “Healthcare Australia has also advised that this doctor has not been involved in the vaccine rollout in any other facilities.“Given this … I apologise to the House for the inadvertence,” he said. “I have again reaffirmed by apologies to the family (of those who received the incorrect dose).“I have asked the department to take action against the company and the doctor for what is a clear breachAustralians were entitled to expect that every single worker contracted by the government to provide vaccines particularly to elderly Australians has completed the relevant training, Opposition health spokesman Mark Butler said.“We remember last year at the height of the Victorian wave that particularly hit aged care facilities hard 685, aged care residents across Australia dying, and the Prime Minister assured us that every single aged care worker had undertaken infection control and training in the use of personal protective equipment or PPE, only to discover later that only one in five age care workers had completed that training, we cannot afford to see that sort of lapse again in this vaccine rollout,” he said in Canberra. “Public confidence in this vaccine rollout is crucial, and to maintain that confidence, the government simply has to do better than this,” he said.Earlier, it emerged the two nursing home residents were not showing any signs of an adverse reaction.The doctor who administered the jab has been stood down from the Federal Government controlled vaccination program.A nurse stepped in to stop further patients receiving an overdose after noticing the higher dose was being given.Mr Hunt earlier said it was believed the residents from the Holy Spirit facility in Carseldine received “four times” the recommended dose.“It hasn’t been confirmed, because it’s actually really hard to be able to tell what was in the needle, but it couldn’t have been more than [four times],” Mr Hunt said.“I think it’s very important that we’re upfront,” Mr Hunt said in Canberra.“The safeguards that were put in place immediately kicked into action and a nurse on the scene identified the fact that a higher than prescribed amount of the dose was given to two patients.It is compulsory for doctors to undertake training on delivering the vaccine and Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the government may need to review the training modules.“In relation to the individual doctor, we’ll leave that to the investigation as to whether or not they either did not understand or did not complete it, but it was a serious breach in terms of following the protocol,” Mr Hunt said.“Our advice is that both doses were administered consecutively and, as a consequence of that, the nurse stepped in immediately.“This is an individual practitioner who has clearly made an error,” Mr Hunt said.Australian Medical Association president Dr Omar Khorshid said he was glad to see the two patients who received the vaccine overdose appeared to be doing well. “The available evidence from the vaccine rollout overseas suggests there should be no risk to their health,” he said.It was inevitable some mistakes would be made during the rollout, he said.“In a big vaccine rollout like this, including the use of multi-dose vials, there will be isolated instances where mistakes are made,” he said.It was important that every healthcare worker involved in the vaccination process has completed the appropriate training, he said.“The systems and processes adopted by providers must minimise the opportunity for mistakes to happen and pick them up quickly when they occur,” he said.The investigations underway should focus on system improvement and not be about attributing blame, he said.The early clinical trials of the Pfizer vaccine did use different doses including one that was four times higher than the dose that is currently being distributed, Professor Kelly said.The Pfizer vaccine is being delivered in vials that contain six doses of the vaccine and it is necessary for doctors and nurses to carefully extract the right amount from each vial.The overdose happened just four days into Australia’s vaccine rollout program and means several of the precious limited doses of the vaccine were wasted.The owner of the nursing home where the overdose was administered days it is very distressed by the event and they will report the doctor involved to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency for the error.“Yesterday was very distressing to us, to our residents, and to their families,” the St Vincent’s said in a statement.“This incident is extremely concerning, it’s caused us to question whether some of the clinicians given the job of administering the vaccine have received the appropriate training,” the group said.“Certainly health authorities and contracted vaccination providers should be re-emphasising to their teams the need to exercise greater care so an error like this does not happen again,” the group said. “Before vaccinations are allowed to continue at any of our sites Healthcare Australia or any other provider will need to confirm training and expertise of clinicians that they have engaged so an incident like this does not happen again,” St Vincent’s said in a statement.CEO of St Vincent’s Care Services, Lincoln Hopper, said the home had no choice in who provided the vaccine because the rollout was under the control of the Federal Government.The vaccination program was continuing but the home was now vetting the medical credentials of the health workers involved, he told a media conference in Brisbane.More than nine in ten residents in the home had indicated they wanted to be vaccinated, he said. “Our confidence in vaccination hasn’t been rocked by this at all.”VACCINE AD BANHealth providers and doctors will be banned from revealing which COVID-19 vaccine they offer as Australia prepares to roll out two jabs at the same time.The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has revealed its guidelines for advertising the vaccine, barring health providers from using their own ads to spruik the jab.It also prohibits GPs, pharmacies and health centres from advertising which vaccine they offer.The guidelines bar them from revealing “the tradename and/or active ingredient of the specific vaccine or other information that might enable consumers to identify the particular vaccine or the manufacturer of the vaccine”.It is illegal to advertise prescription medicines and vaccines in Australia however special promotion materials have been developed by the government for the vaccine rollout. At present there is only one COVID vaccine that can be distributed by GPs and pharmacists -the AstraZeneca vaccine.The Pfizer vaccine must be stored at super cold temperatures and at present is only being distributed through limited hubs in public hospitals around the country and in nursing homes.The advertising rules come as the government grapples with community concern that the AstraZeneca vaccine to be distributed by GPs and pharmacists and the main vaccine that will be offered to most Australians is not as effective as the Pfizer vaccine being given to nursing homes residents, quarantine and frontline health workers. The Pfizer vaccine is 95 per cent effective and needs two doses three weeks apart. The AstraZeneca vaccine is between 62 and 82 per cent effective but the doses are spaced three months apart.New research in the UK this week showed the AstraZeneca vaccine reduced the risk of catching the virus by 70 per cent in healthcare workers after a single dose rising to 85 per cent after two when the second dose was delivered.Health Minister Greg Hunt says both vaccines are 100 per cent effective at preventing severe COVID-19.

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