Health Minister Greg Hunt has revealed a doctor who administered excessive dosages of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine hadn’t completed training for the administration of the program.
Mr Hunt was forced to correct the record after earlier stating the doctor had completed the required training.
“[The] revised advice is that on further investigation Healthcare Australia has advised the doctor had not completed the required training,” Mr Hunt said in Parliament.
The admission was confirmed by Aged Care Minister
Mr Hunt apologised to the families of the two aged-care residents who were administered excessive doses of the vaccine on Tuesday.
Speaking during Question Time, Mr Hunt said both residents were now being monitored for any adverse reactions.
“The No.1 focus has been on the health of the patients,” he said.
“We apologise to the families involved. The important thing … is this is an individual act of human error.
“As a consequence of that, the doctor was stood down.”
Deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd will investigate the incident.
Mr Hunt said the doctor had trained in Australia, was registered with the medical regulator, and had undertaken the necessary training.
“The advice that we have from the deputy chief medical officer is very simple. The doctor involved did the wrong thing and that is a case of human error, a case of unacceptable human error,” he said.
It was the quick thinking of a Queensland nurse that prevented more aged-care residents from receiving overdoses of the coronavirus vaccine.
The two affected residents were given four times the intended dose by a doctor who was contracted to administer the jabs as part of the federal government’s portion of the vaccine rollout.
The 88-year-old man and 94-year-old woman were admitted to hospital for observation and are currently showing no signs of adverse reaction.
Shadow Health Minister Mark Butler called the error a “serious misadministration”, drawing parallels with the second wave of coronavirus infections in Victoria that resulted in a number of deaths in aged-care facilities.
“The Prime Minister assured us that every single aged-care worker had undertaken the infection control and training and the use of personal protective equipment too,” Mr Butler said.
“Only to discover later that only one in five aged-care workers had completed the training.
“We cannot afford to see that sort of elapse again in this vaccine to public confidence in his vaccine rollout is crucial, and to maintain that comfort is the government simply has to do better than this.”
Mr Butler says the government should have been better prepared, given how long it has been planning for the vaccine roll out.
“We have known this was coming for months and months. Pfizer had been approved for many weeks now,” he said.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the next 72 hours are crucial for the elderly pair.
She will write to Prime Minister Scott Morrison asking for a national cabinet meeting to occur as soon as possible.
“I want to know what training is being provided to the people the federal government is employing to administer the vaccines in our aged-care facilities to give additional confidence,” Ms Palaszczuk told state Parliament on Wednesday.
“I’ll be writing to the Prime Minister, (to say) that the federal government needs to give us regular updates about who they are vaccinating, and the number of people that are vaccinating, just as we give the public an update about how many people we are vaccinating.”
Healthcare workers are meant to complete online training modules before being able to administer the coronavirus vaccines, which come in multi-dose vials.
“We will leave that to the investigation as to whether or not they either did not understand or did not complete (the training) – but it was a very serious breach in terms of following the protocol,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“There has to be proof of participation and completion.”
Dr Kidd is looking into what happened and will file a report.
The home’s operator will be reporting the GP – hired by Healthcare Australia – to the national regulator, describing the incident as “extremely concerning”.
Chief medical officer Paul Kelly said higher doses had also been given to residents at aged-care facilities in Germany and the United Kingdom, leading to minimal side effects.
“That gives us hope,” Professor Kelly said.
Higher doses of the vaccines had also been given to people in early clinical trials, he said.
Thousands of Pfizer vaccine doses have been delivered across Australia in the first phase of the vaccination program, which targets frontline aged-care and disability workers and residents.
Doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which most Australians will receive, are on track to arrive from overseas early next month, in addition to vials being manufactured in Victoria.
The Department of Health is waiting to receive state and territory figures on the number of vaccines that have been administered so far.