COVID-19: Some GP clinics waiting a month for permission to start vaccinating

Newshub can reveal some GP clinics are waiting a month for permission to start vaccinating their patients, with doctors saying bureaucrats with clipboards are frustrating the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

The Government's been eagerly talking up New Zealand's vaccination progress - noting a record number of jabs in the past day. 

"This is a tremendous result," Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said on Tuesday.

But what isn't tremendous is only about a fifth of the population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. GPs, who have been vaccinating New Zealanders for years, can help crank it up - but they say when it comes to COVID-19 jabs, it's been a battle to get the go-ahead.

"Bureaucrats are making quite a meal of this," said Vanessa Weenink, deputy chair of the NZ Medical Association. "There still seems to be quite a mindset from DHBs and even the ministry that we can't be trusted to just get on and do it."

The Ministry of Health denies it's putting up barriers, but to get COVID-19 vaccine accreditation staff have to do online training, must show they comply with 160 standards, then undergo between one and three site visits by the District Health Board before they can get started.

"It is literally people with clipboards who think they've got some power," Dr Weenink told Newshub.

"The way that we've been treated is a little bit patronising in some ways," she said.

About 300 of the 1000 GP practices nationwide are now involved in the rollout but getting approval has been dogged with delays and red tape. Some practices in Auckland are waiting up to a month before they can get accreditation 

"There's certainly anecdotal evidence that in some areas the accreditation process is slow because of manpower restrictions and that can be up to three to four weeks," said Bryan Betty, the Royal College of GPs' medical director.

Dr Betty said DHBs need to accept GPs already have standards.

"We need to reduce as much as possible barriers to practices becoming involved in the vaccine programme."

Several countries have already ordered or are about to administer booster vaccines, while New Zealand has yet to sign any sort of deal for boosters.

But vaccinologist Helen Petousis-Harris said there's little point until we improve our coverage.

"I think there's been a lot of red tape all the way through this," she told Newshub.

She said giving GPs easier access to COVID-19 vaccines is crucial.

"These are the people that have been the backbone of our immunisation programme forever really, they're vital."

Joe Bourne, primary care lead of the vaccination and immunisation programme for the health ministry, told Newshub it estimated the wait time for GP accreditation is two weeks and "this is steadily reducing".

Bourne said DHBs recognise doctors already "meet most" of the requirements set for clinical quality and patient safety.