A review of the previous Australian government’s Covid-19 vaccine procurement arrangements has recommended the country widen its supplier base and deepen its inventory of vaccines.
Professor Jane Halton’s review said the previous administration’s actions were consistent with other high-income countries.
“A portfolio and redundancy approach was adopted to mitigate risks and ensure adequate supply,” she said.
“Early procurement of vaccines and treatments occurred in the context of uncertainty and a global vaccine shortage – a ‘sellers' market’. Agreement to conditions not usually included in ordinary procurement contracts was necessary to secure commitments to supply.”
A report recommended creating a portfolio approach to vaccine procurement to mitigate the risk of supply shortage, manufacturing or regulatory failure and other potential risks over the next two years.
It said that global supply of any new effective variant-specific or broader vaccines was likely to be tight for some time, meaning initial purchases would be made in a highly competitive market.
“Flexible APAs [advance purchase agreements] are required to navigate the procurement environment and ensure adequate supplies of vaccines in Australia. Existing APAs and supply agreements provide a starting point for negotiations,” the report added.
Among the recommendations in the review was for the government to make statement of risk appetite to form a part of its vaccine purchasing framework.
It said procurement decisions should be made in the context of agreed policy objectives, risk appetite and supply constraints, including knowledge of market behaviour, as well as based on clinical knowledge.
Vaccine distribution arrangements should be reviewed in order to test value for money and reduce wastage, the report said. New mechanisms to manage stock should be urgently developed to enable greater transparency about stock held and speed up access to supplies.
The government should consider mechanisms such as guarantees for minimum supply to ensure availability of vaccines, it added.
At the very least, the government should look to procure additional Moderna vaccines in 2023 to meet baseline demand in 2024, the report said.
Health minister Mark Butler said: “The government will now carefully consider the eight recommendations contained in the report.”
The Albanese government has criticised the previous Morrison administration for not procuring vaccines quickly enough.
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