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OAG Report Into Vaccine Programme ‘useful And Timely’ Says Ministry

The Auditor General’s report into preparations for the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out provides useful and timely insights about how the overall COVID-19 vaccination programme can be strengthened, says Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield.

The report makes a number of recommendations including being more transparent with the public about supply risks with the vaccine, through to providing further guidance to DHBs about how to apply the sequencing framework and being clear with the public when there will be departures from this approach.

The Ministry of Health welcomes the recommendations in the report and is well positioned to respond to the findings, including implementing the recommendations at pace, Dr Bloomfield says.

In its report, the Office of the Auditor General acknowledges that by undertaking this review at a comparatively early stage of the vaccination roll-out programme some of the overall findings or conclusions will have been overtaken by work the programme has since progressed.

“In all areas identified as needing to be strengthened, the programme has made a number of initial changes and improvements. 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,” Dr Bloomfield says.

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.

Dr Bloomfield says that by June, the Ministry is confident the vast majority of people in group 1 and 2 will have been offered a vaccine and will have made real progress in vaccinating the 1.7m people in group 3. This group includes people over 65, people with underlying medical conditions and prison staff and the prison population. From July, the remaining general population aged 16 and over – group 4 – will be offered a

COVID-19 vaccine at a range of easy to access locations such as pop-up centres, pharmacies, medical and hauora centres and community clinics.

The Office of the Auditor General worked constructively with the Ministry on the development of the report.

“We have appreciated the collaborative approach that the Office has taken, and its willingness to understand both the work the Ministry is doing to ensure we deliver a successful COVID-19 vaccination programme, and how the report’s recommendations could help strengthen the overall approach to the programme,’ Dr Bloomfield says.

Note to Editors: the Ministry’s response document to the Office’s report can be found https://www.health.govt.nz/about-ministry/information-releases/general-information-releases/response-office-auditor-generals-report-covid-19-vaccination-programme

Auditor General’s review recommendations and the Ministry’s response
The Office of the Auditor General’s report made six specific recommendations. Some recommendations have either been fully implemented or are largely complete.

Recommendation 1: Improve transparency about the supply risks and the potential impact on the roll-out schedule in its public communications

The Ministry has begun routinely publishing key data about the rollout, including weekly data setting out the volume of vaccine doses on hand. We have expanded the range of data we are publishing to ensure transparency of the programme, including more information about vaccine supply. The Ministry intends to continue to communicate vaccine supply data (within the limits of commercial confidentiality) for the duration of the programme.

Recommendation 2: Develop contingency plans for major risks for example, that vaccine doses do not arrive at the scheduled time or in the expected quantities, or that enough workforce is not able to be secured, or that adequate workforce cannot be identified.

The 5,000th vaccinator has just been trained and we now have approval for additional health professionals to be part of the vaccinator workforce. Contingency planning is underway for when we scale up in July and plans are already in place for our strategy to deal with a community outbreak.

Recommendation 3: Improve guidance to district health boards about the scenarios in which it is acceptable to depart from the sequencing framework and make this transparent to the public

The Ministry has provided DHBs with additional guidance on the sequencing framework that provides for greater clarity of managing groups of people, whilst rolling out the programme to their communities.

Recommendation 4: Work with district health boards to make sure equity considerations are fully embedded in regional delivery plans.

The Ministry’s equity team continues to work with DHBs to fully embed equity in their regional delivery plans. For example, and in addition to on-going meetings, tailored templates for each DHB have been developed to ensure equity considerations that focus on our priority populations (Mâori, Pacific, and people with disabilities) are incorporated and implemented.

Recommendation 5: Provide more clarity to Mâori and Pacific health care providers, and Primary Health Organisations including general practitioners, about the role they will need to play in the wider roll-out, to ensure that those providers have adequate time to prepare.

The Ministry continues to increase and expand its communication with general practice and Primary Health Organisations, specifically about their role in the wider roll-out. This includes regular newsletters, webinars, and frequent meetings.

Mâori and Pacific health care providers are important to the success of the rollout of the vaccine and the Ministry is providing funding directly to Mâori and Pacific health providers to support their readiness.

Discussions are underway with the respective DHBs to determine how funding and people resource will be distributed across the regions based on their equity responses in DHB regional plans. The Ministries of

Mâori Development and Pacific peoples will also be involved in those discussions.

Recommendation 6: Improve communications planning to be clear about: key events and associated timing; what the Ministry will do to raise public awareness and encourage uptake of the vaccine; and how communications will be tailored to different audiences, in particular Mâori, Pacifica, those with disabilities, and other harder to reach communities.

The Ministry is providing straightforward and accessible information about the vaccine, the rollout programme and advising groups and cohorts within those groups when and how they can be vaccinated.
There are also specific Mâori, Pacific and disability communications funding for organisations to develop local or regional responses on the vaccine programme to their communities.

A Disability Sector Forum has recently been established to partner with the Ministry to provide timely insights and feedback and to facilitate the dissemination of factual information on the COVID-19 vaccine to the sector.
 

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