How Australia plans to learn procurement lessons from Covid

11 July 2022

The incoming Albanese administration has ordered an independent review of Australia's vaccine procurement to prepare for future waves.

 Health minister Mark Butler has tasked Jane Halton, a former secretary of the Commonwealth health department, with carrying out the review.

Halton will look at both vaccines and treatments for Covid-19, taking an inventory of current stocks and looking at procurement arrangements.

Butler described Halton – currently chair of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and co-chair of the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) initiative – as a well-respected and experienced leader in the health sector.

He said the review would make recommendations on future procurement strategies, in line with the latest medical advice.

It will compare Australia’s purchasing processes with similar countries and release findings to the public, excluding confidential commercial information.

“The Australian community has seen the consequences of the Morrison government being caught flat-footed on protecting Australians through vaccinations and treatments,” said Butler.

“This review will provide a deep dive into current supplies and how we plan for the future vaccine and treatments needs. 

“I have already met with Pfizer and Moderna and sought an update on their progress in vaccine development for different variants of Covid, as well as paediatric doses.”

Butler told reporters the review would be carried out urgently to make sure the government had the “best information available to us sooner rather than later”.

“There’s no hard deadline for this review to be completed, but it’s obviously something we want conducted in weeks, not many months,” he said.

Despite his criticisms of the former administration, he said the review would concentrate more on future contractual arrangements than past contracts.

Butler said the incoming government had inherited a range of different contracts with different manufacturers and that he made “no judgement” on them, preferring to focus on future arrangements.

“This is a fast-moving landscape. We need to make sure that we are agile here,” he said.

Authorities in Australia are preparing to roll out a fourth dose of the vaccine amid warnings of a potential spike in cases over the summer.

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