While Australians are constantly being told to keep up with their vaccinations for the benefit of their health and that of those around them, residents in Sydney are being warned that they may have been administered expired or incorrectly stored vaccinations over the past nine years.
On Wednesday, Sydney Local Health District released a statement explaining that as many as 3,000 patients may have received the dodgy vaccines since 2010 at a general practice in the suburb of Burwood. The vaccines administered by two GPs included measles mumps and rubella (MMR), the seasonal flu formulations and a range of vaccines on the National Immunisation Program.
Patients vaccinated by Drs Darrel and Brinda Weinman at the 40 Lindsay Street practice in Burwood may need to be revaccinated as many vaccines given may not have been effective.
“While NSW Health does not have responsibility for GPs, we are assisting co-regulators the Medical Council of NSW and the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission in investigating and responding to these incidents,” Dr Leena Gupta, Clinical Director of Public Health in the district, said in a statement.
“We are writing to patients of that practice to ask them to get advice from a new GP on the need for revaccination.”
Around 3,000 patients have already been contacted but authorities warn that because of inconsistent record keeping at the practice, it’s been difficult to identify patients who have been vaccinated and to obtain contact details for other patients.
Any vaccine covered under the National Immunisation Program will be available for free for affected patients, but some health experts may charge a consultation fee. The statement also confirmed that Darrel Weinman passed away last year, while Brinda Weinman retired late last month. She has cooperated authorities in their investigation.
Patients who haven’t received a letter but believe they’re affected can contact 1800 959 939 or visit slhd.nsw.gov.au/publichealthnotices for more information.
Meanwhile, health professionals have spoken out about the mishaps to give affected patients more background in what it means if they’ve received an expired vaccination.
“It’s unfortunate that expired vaccines have been given and that vaccination records and vaccine storage in fridges appears to have been compromised in one General Practice,” Robert Booy, Head of clinical research at the National Centre for Immunisation & Surveillance, told Scimex. “The MMR vaccine can be safely repeated, or a blood test can be done to check for immunity. Flu vaccines can also be safely repeated.”
Professor Julie Leask from the Susan Wakil School of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Sydney said that inappropriately stored vaccines can lose effectiveness.
“It is vital that vaccines are delivered to patients in a way that is safe and effective. The public puts enormous trust in vaccination,” she said. “Safe and effective vaccinations rely on GPs and other professionals to store and administer vaccines appropriately, including using the right refrigerator, checking of expiry dates and good record keeping, using the Australian Immunisation Register.”
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