Government seeking advice on delivery of COVID-19 vaccine

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The Department of Health is seeking advice on Australia's readiness to implement a mass immunisation program for any COVID-19 vaccines.

The request for tender has appeared on the AusTender website with the Department seeking an external provider to conduct an evaluation of the 2020 flu season and any learnings for the potential rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The project will not commence until 9 October and the appointed provider is not expected to deliver a preliminary 'systems readiness assessment' until 30 November and a draft 'final report' for part two of the evaluation until 21 December.

Australia would also need a vaccine to distribute.

The federal government launched its COVID-19 vaccine strategy in early August and then created an advisory group on the potential procurement, manufacturing and distribution of any vaccine.

The government is yet to sign any advance supply agreement for a COVID-19 vaccine.

It signed a 'letter of intent' with AstraZeneca on 18 August but it has not yet progressed to any formal agreement on the vaccine the UK-based company is developing with The University of Oxford. 

It has faced increasing scrutiny over its actions on a vaccine given many countries have now signed manufacturing or advanced supply agreements for over six billion doses of investigative candidates.

The US has agreements for six of the candidates and has a draft proposal prioritising certain population groups. The UK has agreements for five candidates and is proposing to change its laws to expand the number of healthcare professionals able to administer a vaccine.

The UK and US governments are planning for the potential distribution of a vaccine before the end of 2020.

Other countries with agreements include Japan, Canada, South Korea, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Indonesia, Sweden, Estonia, India and Switzerland. The European Union also has several agreements as do some individual countries who are also members of the bloc.

According to the Department's request for tender, "Currently, the potential exists for the Department’s existing infrastructure to be utilised to support the forecasting, distribution, supply and administration of a COVID-19 vaccine program, regardless of whether or not the vaccine is provided through the NIP [National Immunisation Program]. Demand for such a vaccine could potentially be significant and the smooth operation of the abovementioned elements will be crucial to the successful delivery of such a vaccination program. 

"Flowing from the completion of the evaluation of the 2020 influenza season and the completion of a report which identifies any shortfalls or limitations of the current program, the successful tenderer will draw on the information gathered and perform an assessment of the system readiness for the implementation of a potential COVID-19 vaccination program.

"The successful tenderer must identify any gaps and articulate recommendations for swift rectification to ensure the best possible roll out of a COVID-19 vaccine.

"The successful tenderer must give consideration to all of the abovementioned influenza considerations, plus, how and where a vaccine may be manufactured, imported, distributed and stored. Additionally, there must be consideration of whether there is a sufficient workforce in place to facilitate such a program and how the timing of a COVID-19 vaccination program would roll out, noting this is likely to occur within the same environment as the delivery of routine vaccinations."