New vaccine care obligations in the wake of audit findings

12 July 2019 | Avant media

A recent NSW Health audit found a number of GP practices did not have adequate systems and controls in place for storing vaccines, raising concerns patients may not be adequately protected. Efforts are being made to contact affected patients to advise them to see a doctor about re-vaccination. These audit findings have led to NSW Health tightening vaccine storage rules, which take effect from 31 July 2019.

The Medical Council of NSW also recently reported receiving a number of complaints about suboptimal vaccine storage and administration of out-of-date vaccines. A statement on their website notes “this is a significant public health risk and resulted in conditions being placed on these doctors’ registrations”.

NSW Health reports it is working with the RACGP, AMA, Medical Council of NSW and Primary Health Networks to assist in reminding GPs of their vaccine care obligations.

NSW Health new requirements

In a letter to all GPs across the state, Dr Kerry Chant, NSW Health Chief Medical Officer, has updated and reminded practices of their requirements for ordering vaccines from the NSW State Vaccine Centre. This includes a new requirement to have at least one staff member who has successfully completed the NSW Health Vaccine Storage and Cold Chain Management online learning module and a certificate of completion kept on file.

Updated National Vaccine Storage Guidelines

Dr Chant’s letter coincides with an update to the National Vaccine Storage Guidelines ‘Strive for 5’ made on 28 June 2019. Among the guidelines is a statement that “purpose-built vaccine refrigerators are the only suitable option for vaccine storage”. This was confirmed by Dr Chant, who stated practices should “…make arrangements to purchase a purpose built vaccine refrigerator to continue to receive government-funded vaccines”.

Ordering from NSW Vaccine Centre

NSW Health stipulates that when ordering vaccines from the NSW State Vaccine Centre, you must declare that:

  • each vaccine dose administered will be notified to the Australian Immunisation Register
  • the facility complies with cold chain recommendations in the National Vaccine Storage Guidelines ‘Strive for 5’
  • vaccine fridge temperatures are checked and recorded twice daily, thermometer reset and records kept
  • all vaccine specific refrigerators are continuously data logged using an electronic data log and the data logging report is downloaded, saved and reviewed weekly and if there is a min/max reading of below +2°C or above 8°C
  • in the event of a cold chain storage breach, the public health unit will be called before taking any further action
  • the vaccine fridge temperature has been between 2°C and 8°C since the last vaccine order.

NSW Health has advised it will conduct random audits for practice compliance. This will include checking notification of vaccinations to the Australian Immunisation Register, as well as verifying compliance with the vaccine storage and staff training requirements.

Tips to mitigate your risk

  • Store vaccines in a purpose-built vaccine refrigerator.
  • Educate all people in your practice who are responsible for handling vaccines so they understand the importance of effective vaccine management.
  • Nominate a staff member to be responsible for vaccine management, and a back-up staff member to take responsibility in their absence.
  • Ensure policies, procedures and protocols are in place for vaccine management in all facilities within your practice or organisation.
  • Perform vaccine storage self-audits at least every 12 months.
  • Ensure plans are in place to respond to cold chain breaches and power failures in all facilities within your practice or organisation.

If your practice receives an audit notification, please contact us on 1800 128 268 or email us at nca@avant.org.au for information or advice.

Other useful resources:

National Vaccine Storage Guidelines ‘Strive for 5’ 

RACGP Standards for general practices (5th edition)

NSW Health Cold chain breach protocol

NSW Health Vaccine Storage and Cold Chain Management

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