Vaccine stocks across Cairns have been discarded after widespread power outages pushed sensitive refrigeration temperatures out of the safe zone.
Vaccine stocks across Cairns have been discarded after widespread power outages pushed sensitive refrigeration temperatures out of the safe zone.

Vaccines thrown in bin after mass power outages

POTENTIALLY dozens of medical centres have been forced to throw vaccines in the bin after widespread power outages pushed sensitive refrigeration temperatures out of the safe zone.

Suburbs on the south side of Cairns lost electricity for more than 24 hours after winds associated with Cyclone Niran caused major damage to powerlines earlier in the week.

It is unclear how many pharmacies and GPs lost their cache of vaccines following the Cyclone Niran power outages - but the list includes Southcare Medical Centre in Woree, SmartClinics Woree Family Medical Centre and the Cairns Family Medical Centre in Parramatta Park.

The Cairns Post understands parents trying to book their babies in for shots next week have been advised to call around to find other medical centres not affected by the blackouts.

Patients have been urged to call around town to find GPs with viable vaccine stocks.
Patients have been urged to call around town to find GPs with viable vaccine stocks.

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The Cairns 24 Hour Medical Centre in the city was one operators that still had viable vaccines in stock.

North Queensland Primary Health Care Network chairman Nick Loukas said doctors and pharmacists organised their own vaccine delivery schedule with government authorities, so it was difficult to put an exact figure on how many and what kind of immunisation doses were lost.

Cyclone Niran wreaked havoc with multiple trees and power lines down across Cairns. Picture: Ergon Energy
Cyclone Niran wreaked havoc with multiple trees and power lines down across Cairns. Picture: Ergon Energy

"That's been an issue with a lot of pharmacies - there are constant issues with vaccines in power outages," he said.

"We have monitors that can send you an SMS when they get below a certain temperature, but you really need back-up generators.

"The cold chain management, especially up here and in rural areas, is very difficult.

"It's critical that it's managed effectively.

"These fridges have to measure the maximum and minimum temperatures every day, and once a year you get sent a device that sits in the fridge for a month to check that there's no fluctuation in temperature."

Building contractor Mick Black repairing one of the many fences that blew down along Hambledon Rd in Edmonton. Picture: Stewart McLean
Building contractor Mick Black repairing one of the many fences that blew down along Hambledon Rd in Edmonton. Picture: Stewart McLean

Mr Loukas's own chain, Alive Pharmacy, managed to avoid losing any vaccines by ferrying any affected doses to stores that still had power.

"A couple of our stores on the south-side, at Edmonton and 318 Mulgrave Rd, were affected," he said.

"We moved the stock into other stores that weren't affected and managed it that way.

"So we haven't lost any."

Bureau of Meteorology satellite images show Cyclone Niran off the Queensland coast. PICTURE: BOM
Bureau of Meteorology satellite images show Cyclone Niran off the Queensland coast. PICTURE: BOM

The region's COVID-19 vaccines have not been affected, being kept in strict, high-security facilities with backup power.

A total of 234 doses of the Pfizer vaccine were administered by the Cairns Hospital and Hinterland Health Service on Wednesday, bringing the total number up to 740.

Originally published as Vaccines thrown in bin after mass Cairns power outages


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