GPs reminded about proper care of vaccines
An instance of incorrect storage has prompted health authorities to issue a blanket reminder about the importance of adhering to national guidelines.
NSW Health also called on the RACGP to re-emphasise vaccine care obligations after it was discovered thousands of patients treated at a Sydney-based practice may have received expired vaccines.
Sydney Local Health District’s Clinical Director of Public Health, Dr Leena Gupta, said vaccines administered at the practice had not been stored appropriately since 2010 and may not have been effective.
According to Fairfax, the practice was run out of the GPs’ family home and a range of vaccines on the National Immunisation Program, including seasonal flu formations and measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines, were stored in a domestic fridge and potentially affected.
As a result, around 3000 patients have already been contacted regarding the potential need to be revaccinated, an effort that has been complicated due to inconsistent record-keeping practices.
Dr Ken McCroary, Vice Chair of the RACGP Expert Committee – Standards for General Practices, told newsGP that vaccines are highly sensitive to changes in temperature and it is easy for them to lose effectiveness if proper procedures are not followed.
‘Unfortunately, this sort of news doesn’t surprise me,’ he said.
‘I’ve always had concerns with loss of the cold chain [in terms of] storage, particularly with school-based programs, employer-based programs, and even pharmacy-based programs.
‘After about 12 minutes of being outside the 2–8⁰ C temperature range, the vaccine starts to become affected … which, particularly in times of significant influenza outbreak and measles outbreaks, [is concerning].
‘I probably would only get myself or my kids vaccinated at accredited practices in line with the RACGP Standards.’
Dr McCroary also said the report is an example of why it is so important to maintain quality records.
‘If they’re computerised it’s a lot easier to keep track of them,’ he said.
‘But [even] computers rely on data entry and if your data entry is not up to scratch then you’re not going to have correct data and safe data, which is a breach of your patient requirements.’
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