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Government admits vaccine given to some lower priority recipients

A phial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool)

An automated process to schedule Covid-19 vaccinations resulted in appointments for “some people” who were not in a target group, a Government spokeswoman said.

She admitted that others “missed out” despite being among those for whom bookings were intended.

The spokeswoman said: “We are aware of some individuals in the community receiving their vaccinations seemingly not in the order of the ministry’s vaccine allocation strategy.

“While out of the thousands of vaccines administered, this is a very small number of people, it is unfortunate.”

A Covid-19 vaccine registration form on the Government website said that enrolment was open to people in the phase one and two priority groups.

Phase 1A is for people aged 80 and older, rest home and long-term care residents as well as frontline healthcare and essential workers.

Phase 1B includes anyone aged 65 and over as well as extremely vulnerable people.

Information on the Government website showed that phase 2 was for those aged 50 and older, vulnerable people, essential travellers and “identified groups” in the general population, which may include residents with disabilities or unsheltered people.

The health ministry spokeswoman explained: “Appointments are provided based on a combination of vulnerabilities which will give someone priority over someone else in the same priority group.

“For example, in phase 2, a person with diabetes who is also an essential worker may get booked before a 62-year-old with no medical conditions who registered before them.”

She added: “The vaccine team has worked hard to prioritise and make appointments for persons in phases 1A and 1B.

“Doing this manually proved extremely time consuming, particularly in face of the overwhelming response received when we asked residents to register their interest in being vaccinated.

“Over time, the team developed a more automated process for ensuring persons in the target groups were scheduled for a vaccination based on key words as self-reported in the registration process.

“It became clear, however, that while the scheduling was quicker, some people got vaccination appointments who would not ordinarily be in a target group, while others who we wanted to capture, missed out.”

The spokeswoman said a revised registration form, which went live this week, included “the improved ability to prioritise members of essential services, for example, and other key groups”.

She added yesterday: “We cannot guarantee persons outside a particular target group will not receive a vaccination appointment but the changes to the appointments process should see a reduction in these already low numbers.

“That said, the ministry will be issuing a Request For Proposals later this week which seeks to engage a vendor for a new pandemic response administration system to cover all aspects of the pandemic from testing through to vaccinations.”

The spokeswoman added that it could be difficult to stop a “small” number of non-residents who were given a first dose of the vaccine from receiving a second.

The Ministry of Health said last month, in response to questions from The Royal Gazette, that it did not initially check those receiving the jab were actually living on the island – and had introduced a better system.

A spokeswoman, replying to a query about a second dose for non-residents, said yesterday: “Out of the thousands of vaccines administered, and given the alleged non-residents would have provided false information to get an appointment in the first place, logic suggests it will be difficult to avoid.

“That said, the identification required is being carefully scrutinised.”

However, Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said on Tuesday that people who plan to take the vaccination were asked for identification to confirm residency.

She added that unless people can prove they live on the island “they won’t be able to get their second dose“.

The health ministry spokeswoman said that guidelines for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine – 29,250 doses of which have so far been delivered to Bermuda – were that it should be used on people aged 16 and over.

She confirmed it will not be provided to people under 16 “with or without parental consent”.

The Ministry of Health said earlier this month that “a number” of people in the phase 1 target groups “mistakenly provided the wrong number when registering, thus preventing the hotline team from contacting them to make an appointment”.

A spokeswoman said yesterday that people have “regularly” called the vaccine hotline to update or correct their information.

She added: “Recently, we have seen an uptick in people asking if we have their registration information.

“Some because they want to be sure we have it and others because they think they should have received appointments already.

“If this person qualifies for phase 1, we book their appointment.

“If they do not qualify, we advise them on when they likely will be eligible, based on their information.”

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Published February 11, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated February 11, 2021 at 8:43 am)

Government admits vaccine given to some lower priority recipients

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