The doctor who incorrectly administered the coronavirus vaccine to two elderly aged care residents had not been trained properly, it has been revealed, as the government scrambles to restore confidence to the vaccine rollout.
Health Minister Greg Hunt was forced to correct himself in Parliament after originally referring to records the doctor had completed the training in question time.
The opposition said the blunder, which was noticed by one of two nurses also on shift at the Brisbane aged care centre, risked confidence, and compared it to the mismanagement of aged care facilities in the early days of the pandemic.
Mr Hunt said that earlier investigations had showed the doctor had done the training, but new evidence from Healthcare Australia, the contractor responsible for the vaccine rollout in some aged care centres, said that wasn't the case.
"Healthcare Australia has also advised that this doctor has not been involved in the vaccine rollout in any other facilities," he said.
Mr Hunt said he had advised his department to take action against the provider and the doctor, who has since been stood down and reported to the regulator.
While state and territory governments are responsible for the bulk of the vaccine rollout, the federal government is in charge of delivering vaccines to aged care facilities, a project for which multiple private healthcare providers have been contracted.
An 88-year-old man and a 94-year-old woman at Holy Spirit aged care in Carseldine were given the wrong dose. Each injection was given consecutively and the nurse on site raised the alarm that a mistake had been made.
"The nurse on the scene stepped in and I want to thank her for her strength of character and her professionalism," Mr Hunt told reporters earlier on Wednesday.
It has been reported the two residents were given four times the normal dose, but Mr Hunt said that couldn't be confirmed and would be part of the investigation.
"It was a very serious breaching in terms of following protocols," he said.
The Pfizer vaccine is stored in multi-dose vials, the first vaccine to be delivered in Australia in such a way, a fact which has been widely aired in public debate about the rollout. Anyone involved in the vaccine rollout was required to do an online training module and Mr Hunt initially told Parliament on Wednesday the doctor had completed the training.
"The training of this Australian-trained doctor, the credentials of this Australian-trained doctor and the specific training of this Australian-trained doctor were all carried out in accordance with procedures," he said in question time.
"Every one of those steps has been checked and rechecked and none of those steps had been breached. The advice that we have from the deputy chief medical officer is very simple. The doctor involved did the wrong thing and that is a case of human error, a case of unacceptable human error. As a consequence of that, the doctor was stood down."
Straight after question time, Mr Hunt sought to make a statement, saying he had been wrong.
Both of the residents have been taken to hospital for observation but so far neither had experienced adverse effects.
The chief executive officer of home operator St Vincent's Care Services, where the residents live in Carseldine in Brisbane, said: "They are not out of the woods in that sense and so we are very concerned for their welfare."
Mr Hopper said confidence in the vaccination program "has not been rocked" but there must be no repeat of what happened on Tuesday.
"That error has been so severe that we are reporting that GP to the health authorities. The regulator will need to understand what happened and what caused the error but it is distressing to us, our residents and their families."
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the next 72 hours are crucial for the elderly pair.
She will write to Prime Minister Scott Morrison asking for a national cabinet meeting to occur as soon as possible.
"I want to know what training is being provided to the people the federal government is employing to administer the vaccines in our aged care facilities to give additional confidence," Ms Palaszczuk told State Parliament on Wednesday.
"I'll be writing to the Prime Minister [to say] that the federal government needs to give us regular updates about who they are vaccinating, and the number of people they are vaccinating, just as we give the public an update about how many people we are vaccinating."
Australia's chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, said that stronger doses had been used in early clinical trials before the current dose was decided.
Deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd will lead the investigation into how the mistake was made.
Professor Kelly said: "The other people that were due to get that vaccine yesterday did not get it but they will be getting it in coming days."
Labor's health spokesman, Mark Butler, said the government needed to do better to maintain confidence in the vaccine rollout, and it was unacceptable the doctor didn't know about the multi-dose vials.
"I don't know what desert island you will have been on not to know that these vaccines were being delivered in multi-dose vials," he said.
"What is Greg Hunt going to do to make sure that every single worker putting an injection into people's arms has undertaken the proper training?"