COVID-19 vaccine doses enough to immunise 250 people, thrown out in Bendigo

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Bendigo Health admits it threw out 500 expired AstraZeneca vaccine doses at the end of June, blaming the bungle on the Commonwealth Government. 

The doses could have fully vaccinated up to 250 people. 

A Bendigo Health spokesperson said Bendigo Health received a surplus AstraZeneca vaccine from the Commonwealth, that was due to expire at the end of June.

Staff had just eight days to use up the extra supply but were unable to. 

On June 27, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said anyone over the age of 18 could ask their GP for the AstraZeneca vaccine, despite the Commonwealth roll-out stating people under the age of 40, who are not in a priority group, are not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.

But the health advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), remains that Pfizer is the preferred vaccine for those under the age of 60.

‘It’s a disgrace’

Bendigo Federal Labor MP Lisa Chesters said she was not surprised by the bungle, pointing to mixed messaging around the vaccine. 

“Frustrating when you think about the problem we have not just locally but globally,” Ms Chesters said.

“I really feel for the team at Bendigo Health and the GPs, who didn’t know if they were going to get vaccines … then vaccines arrived and they didn’t have the bookings for people. 

A spokesperson from the Federal Health Department responded with a statement, saying during Victoria’s outbreak in June, the state government agreed to accept AstraZeneca stock nearing expiry to utilise as much of this stock as possible.

“How they utilised this is a matter for the Victorian Department of Health,” the Health statement read.

Despite throwing out vaccines last month, Bendigo’s mass vaccination clinic has seen an increase in bookings. (

ABC Central Victoria: Sarah Lawrence

)

Book in, GPs urge

Around 27 per cent of Australians over 70 are vaccinated, Department of Health figures showed.

Dr Edward Griffin from the Spring Gully Respiratory Clinic is urging people over 60 to get vaccinated, saying the benefits outweigh the risks.

“That risk is much greater than the risk of rare blood clotting.”

He said after the recommended age group for the AstraZeneca vaccine changed from 50 to 60 years of age, the clinic saw a dip in vaccination appointments.

“There was a dip in our numbers at the Respiratory Clinic, as people in their 50s cancelled their appointments.”

“There was also a lot of people in that age group and even younger who said no I want this vaccine. I accept the very small risks.”

Growing issue

Dr Griffin said people over 18 could book in to get the AstraZeneca vaccine at the Spring Gully Respiratory clinic, if they were not considered high risk for side effects.

In the state’s west, Horsham Sub Hub COVID vaccine rollout coordinator Genevieve Lilley expected “a lot” of its AstraZeneca supply to go in the bin when they expire across October and November.

The hub has 31 vials — or 300 doses — of AstraZeneca.

“There are a lot of over 60s in our community that are not vaccinated.”

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