Alert over faulty tetanus shots

Wellington Regional Hospital has issued an alert that up to 16,000 patients may have received faulty tetanus shots.

Capital and Coast District Health Board said there had been a possible fault with a refrigerator in the emergency department at Wellington Regional Hospital.

CCDHB spokesman Andrew Simpson said some patients who visited the ED have received a tetanus injection that "may not have been effective as it was thermally damaged."

Those patients may not be fully immunised against tetanus, he said.

The hospital said it could not guarantee that the refrigerator had always been within the right temperature range and therefore up to 16,000 tetanus boosters may have been affected in the past 10 years.

Dr Simpson said the hospital "very much regret that this has occurred".

The refrigerator has been replaced and all tetanus vaccines now administered in Wellington Hospital emergency department are fully effective.

Wellington Hospital emergency department sees about 50,000 patients every year and many present with injuries of some kind that require a tetanus booster.

Tetanus is a rare disease in New Zealand with only one to four cases reported throughout NZ each year and only two reported cases in the Wellington Region in the past 10 years; neither of which resulted from an ineffective booster from Wellington emergency department.

"We wish to advise patients that there is no need to take any immediate action if they received a potentially ineffective tetanus vaccine, as when tetanus does occur it is within a few weeks of injury," said Dr Simpson.

"However, we wish to advise people that if they get another contaminated or dirty wound then they should seek medical attention by visiting a GP or coming into the Wellington Hospital ED."

He said patients will then be offered another tetanus shot to ensure they are well protected. A wound is considered contaminated or dirty if there is any dirt, soil or other foreign material in it regardless of the size of the wound.

"People at greatest risk of developing tetanus are those that have never been fully vaccinated in the past. Normally people who have received full childhood vaccines would need a tetanus booster at ages 11, 45 and 65."

The hospital recommends the public visit a doctor if they were not fully vaccinated in childhood, or are unsure if they are fully protected, regardless of whether or not they received a vaccine in Wellington emergency department recently.

For further information about your immunisation status you can contact your GP, the Immunisation Advisory Centre free phone line 0800 IMMUNE (466863) or Heathline for advice.