Whistleblowers expose Qld’s ‘ludicrous’ vaccine rollout
Health workers at the coalface of Queensland's fight against COVID-19 have lifted the lid on the state's vaccination rollout which the nurses' union has likened to "luck of the draw".
Claims of the difficulty in scheduling vaccination appointments raised by staff have been backed by the Queensland Nurses and Midwives' Union, which has acknowledged some essential workers had trouble organising their COVID-19 jab.
It comes as Health Minister Yvette D'Ath confirmed vaccinators were rounding-up hospital staff to receive a dose to prevent wastage and Queensland Health says 4230 essential workers including hospital staff, police, quarantine workers and paramedics have been vaccinated.
But Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt on Tuesday told Coalition colleagues at a party room meeting that "Queensland has the lowest vaccine rollout in what has been distributed to them from vaccines".
One frontline worker at the Princess Alexandra Hospital - the site of Thursday's COVID-19 scare - said they called "at least a dozen times" to try and schedule a vaccine appointment before leaving an answering machine message that was never returned.
"Staff who require the vaccine first are not getting it because of an inadequate booking system … it seems ludicrous," the worker said.
Another senior PA Hospital employee, who was due to be in the 1B vaccination phase, said they received an unplanned jab one afternoon following a surplus of doses.
"Late in the afternoon if they had leftover doses the people doing vaccinations would put out a call for anyone around the hospital who was free to come down for a dose," the worker said.
"I guess I've been lucky.
"For people who are wanting to get it, it has been tough."
Queensland Nurses and Midwives' Union Secretary Beth Mohle said overall the rollout had been positive, but she acknowledged some members were struggling to find time to receive the jab.
Ms Mohle said all health workers would eventually be vaccinated, but declared there was "an issue" with frontline workers scheduling appointments.
"It's a bit of the luck of the draw (receiving the jab) because you don't want to waste it," she said.
"It's always going to be challenging too with shift work arrangements and capturing people … because it's really, really busy in the health system at the moment."
Ms Mohle said the rollout was "probably slower than we'd hoped" and said the union would canvass ways to ensure frontline staff were vaccinated.
"People might agree to come in on their own time," she said.
A Queensland Health spokesperson said "it's important to note that no one has missed out on their vaccination" and that extra staff had been engaged to assist in the booking process, with the PA hospital clinic extending its hours.
"The program is ongoing and we are vaccinating Phase 1a staff every day across Queensland," the spokesperson said.
"To date, about 4,230 staff from Metro South and West Moreton facilities, hotel quarantine, screening clinics, QAS, QPS, Border Force and airport priority groups have been vaccinated with their first dose at the MSH Pfizer Vaccination Hub at PA Hospital.
"Most of these are booked, some are unconfirmed appointments from the Priority 1a group, and a small percentage are other hospital staff filling in gaps."
The spokesperson said more than 2000 PA hospital staff had now been vaccinated.
"The clinic has commenced booking second dose appointments and has commenced scheduling appointments for the Phase 1b cohort," the spokesperson said.
"Not all people offered vaccine, including the 1a target group have yet accepted their offer of vaccination, as it is not mandatory and so we are actively following these people up.
"This is the most complex global vaccination rollout in history, and we thank everyone for their patience."
Ms D'Ath said the six-hour shelf life of the thawed vaccine meant some unplanned jabs were required to prevent wastage.
"We are not going to throw any of this in the bin," she said.
"If we have any leftover at the end of the day what our hospitals are doing at our vaccination hubs is finding other hospital staff and they're giving them that vaccination."
Ms D'Ath said her longstanding fears about supply almost came to a head on Tuesday when a delivery of Pfizer came hours before vaccinations on the Gold Coast ran out.
"There was real concern the Gold Coast University Hospital would stop vaccinating," she said.
Ms D'Ath said frontline health workers, everyone within Phase 1A, would have received their first dose within the fortnight.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt claimed to Coalition colleagues at a party room meeting that "Queensland has the lowest vaccine rollout in what has been distributed to them from vaccines".
Data obtained by The Courier-Mail shows that Queensland has administered 18,705 doses of the vaccines as of March 14, compared to 86,960 doses that have been provided to them.
It is behind 37,553 doses administered by NSW, 31,808 administered by Victoria and 18,892 jabs delivered by WA.
Data on the total vaccines provided to those states was not available.
Australia's Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the states were in charge of their own rollouts, but noted that they were aware that the Commonwealth was already stockpiling to ensure there were the necessary second doses available.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the public just want the rollout done, "not scraps between us and the premiers".
On Monday Queensland recorded two cases of COVID-19, both in hotel quarantine.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said lockdowns would remain at Greater Brisbane hospitals, aged care homes and disability services facilities amid fears people released from quarantine at the Hotel Grand Chancellor could have been exposed to COVID-19.
Deputy chief health officer Sonya Bennett said CCTV from within the Hotel Grand Chancellor had not shown any breaches of COVID restrictions that could have caused the virus to spread between guests.
Dr Bennett said hundreds of contacts of the Princess Alexandra Hospital doctor who was infected on Thursday have been tested.
"We're feeling very reassured about those circumstances and how they're unfolding," Dr Bennett said.
Originally published as Vaccine rollout 'luck of the draw'