DHB advises no harm to 56 Taranaki children given expired COVID-19 vaccine

14 April 2022

Taranaki DHB (TDHB) is contacting, apologising to and reassuring the whānau of 56 Taranaki children that there was no harm caused through receiving a paediatric (child’s) COVID-19 vaccine that had expired by between one and 11 days.

All affected whānau are being offered a free appointment with their GP or medical provider to seek further advice and make an individualised plan for the next steps for their child.

The primary site was the New Plymouth TDHB Vaccination Hub affecting 39 children, with nine children affected at Life Pharmacy in Centre City and eight at Tui Ora. A review of the vaccination database revealed that no other children within the programme were affected.

Clinical advice from IMAC is that there is no need for re-vaccination, or risk of harm to the affected children who received a vaccine within 48 hours of its expiry (32 of the 56) as we can be confident this vaccine is still effective.

For those receiving a dose past 48 hours (24 of the 56) the advice is dependent on their clinical circumstances and they should make an individual plan with their GP or medical provider.

The administering of an expired vaccine happened following a misinterpretation of the Ministry of Health’s extended expiry date on some paediatric vaccines on March 9, which extended the Pfizer Pediatric expiry dates from 6 to 9 months. The extension related to frozen stock, not refrigerated stock, which remained at 10 weeks.

Following this, two paediatric Pfizer vaccine batches within the New Plymouth Vaccination Hub were wrongly extended by three months rather than 10 weeks. Subsequently, 56 children between 28 March and 6 April were administered a vaccine that was past its true expiry date across three sites.

Once the use of expired vaccines was discovered on April 6, all sites were informed, and all stock subsequently removed from circulation. This is an isolated event restricted to TDHB and has not affected vaccinations given to those aged 12 and over.

“Clinical advice from IMAC, New Zealand’s expert advisors on immunisation, confirms that no harm to health will come from being given expired vaccine, although I acknowledge that this news will be distressing for parents and whānau,” says Dr Catherine Jackson, Medical Officer of Health, “All families are being actively be contacted and an individualised plan made with them.”

After an initial review of the events, both the Ministry of Health and IMAC were informed and consulted with for clinical advice to inform the next steps, says Bevan Clayton-Smith, TDHB’s Senior Responsible Officer for the Taranaki COVID-19 Vaccination Programme.

“I apologise to the whānau and tamariki involved. A review was started as soon as we found out, to understand what had happened and who was affected from this,” says Mr Clayton-Smith.

“The TDHB then put in measures to contact and apologise to all whānau affected. This error should not have occurred, and we are putting in a comprehensive a range of modifications within our vaccination programme to prevent future events occurring.”

“The paediatric vaccine programme is extremely important to keep our children safe from the COVID-19 virus and to date more than 8,000 paediatric vaccines have been administered across our region”

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