Qtown vaccine failure report reveals lapsed accreditation

by Kim Bowden - Jun 09, 2022

An independent report into a major cold chain breach that affected 1,500 people has revealed the Queenstown-based provider at the centre of it stored vaccines in a fridge at their own home and was unaware of protocol breaches until they were identified during a routine outside audit.

The report also reveals the cold chain accreditation of the provider, Queenstown based Engage Safety Limited, owned by Debbie Swain-Rewi and Darren Rewi, had lapsed.

An independent report into the incident, commissioned by the Southern District Health Board, was released this afternoon.

It finds Engage Safety’s cold chain accreditation had expired in November last year.

“At that time, the Covid-19 pandemic was dominating the health system, and there was a government directive to vaccinate all eligible people over the age of 18 in Aotearoa New Zealand,” the report says.

Engage Safety had plans to install a new vaccine fridge at new premises on Glenda Drive, but in the meantime vaccines were kept in a vaccine fridge at the home of Ms Swain-Rewi and Mr Rewi.

Ongoing attempts were made to arrange for Engage Safety to renew its cold chain accreditation, and eventually a date was decided on in March.

There was an “expectation that the renewal of accreditation visit would be routine”, because the provider had successfully achieved the status in the past.

Instead, the visiting coordinator noted discrepancies with the fridge temperature monitoring over the previous two months that Ms Swain-Rewi “appeared unaware” of, the report says.

The compromised vaccines were administered to 1,500 people in Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago between December 1 and January 28.

‘‘Had the cold chain accreditation renewal been completed in November 2021, the potential cold chain failure in December 2021 and January 2022 may not have been discovered at this time or at all,’’ the report says.

‘‘Equally, if all cold chain management processes were in place as required, downloading of data and appropriate action in early December would have prevented the resultant breaches.’’

In a statement today in response to the report, the SDHB says, after ten years of doing so, Engage Safety is not administering vaccines for now.

"The SDHB and the provider are working through the process to allow them to administer vaccines again safely and confidently in the future."

Engage Safety has provided "years of dedicated vaccination and health care service" within the district, it says.

"They are a community-minded, locally-driven organisation that has the health and welfare of their staff, community and whānau at the heart of everything they do."

The incident was an "unfortunate" and "isolated" one, it says.

"The SDHB has full confidence that this event will only improve the quality of care that they provide their community every day." 

At the time of the breach, 10 providers in the Southern district were working towards cold chain accreditation renewal, the reports says.

The SDHB has confirmed all active vaccine providers have ticked the necessary accreditation boxes.

The SDHB is continuing attempts to reach by phone 112 of the 1,576 people affected by the cold chain failure.

Support Crux Support Crux