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The federal government has signed contracts with distribution, logistics and tracking companies to distribute Covid-19 vaccines throughout Australia from March, firstly to healthcare workers and aged care residents.
Courier DHL and Logistics and supply chain Linfox will be responsible for the distribution, and will work with the Department of Health to design and operate a national distribution network. This will include ensuring the vaccine gets to people in rural and remote areas.
They will also be required to track and report the temperature of the vaccine at all times. The required temperature could be between 2C and 8C for more standard cold-chain vaccines, and as low as –70C, which is needed for the Pfizer vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine will require purpose-built dry ice containers during distribution.
The government’s Covid-19 vaccination policy document states the rollout of the different vaccines, all with specific storage, transportation, security and administration requirements, “will be complex and atypical”.
“Once vaccine doses are delivered to a state or territory vaccination site, states and territories will take responsibility for the physical safety and appropriate storage and handling of those doses,” the policy says.
The Pfizer vaccine is the most likely of the vaccine candidates to be rolled out first, having already been through stage-three clinical trials. If drugs regulator the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approves it, the government said 10m units of the vaccine would be available from March. Phase-three clinical trial results found 95% of people given the vaccine were protected against the virus.
The government has secured more than 117m doses of different vaccines, all of which require two doses. They expect the first doses to be delivered to Australia in “early 2021”.
Audit and assurance company, PwC, will be the Department of Health’s program delivery partner for the vaccine rollout, while professional services company Accenture will design and implement the software required to track the vaccine at different stages across the delivery chain.
On Wednesday the federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese called for the vaccine to be distributed sooner, given the TGA and independent advisory committee on vaccines anticipate they will have reviewed the data provided by pharmaceutical companies by January and, if they are satisfied with the safety and efficacy profile, will approve it.
But the distribution of the vaccine is also complex, and working through the logistical and storage issues means the vaccine is unlikely to be available earlier than March. Staff who will be giving the vaccine also need to be trained, and safety systems will need to be put in place to allow ongoing monitoring of the vaccine, including any side effects. These are all aspects of the rollout the government does not want to rush.
Hunt told the ABC on Thursday morning that there are “three big parts” to the vaccines rollout.
“There is the assessment, which relies on the data from the vaccine companies,” he said.
“There is the production, which relies on them being on schedule. And then there is the shipping and distribution. All of those are on track. And we’re ahead of schedule. But our whole approach has been to provide confidence by underpromising and over delivering.”
He said countries where the vaccine was already being rolled out to targeted and vulnerable populations had a very different situation to that in Australia.
“We’ll set the March expectation and obviously we work to not just achieve that but put ourselves in an even stronger position but there is no country to the best of my knowledge to give a general population approval and there are daily deaths of thousands of cases in the US and the United Kingdom.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Australia secures Covid vaccine transport contracts, with distribution to start in March | Australia news