Australian Government Responds to COVID-19 Procurement Review

Many governments around the world have faced pressure regarding their procurement of COVID-19 treatments and vaccines, so it is encouraging to see The Australian Government releasing its response to the Halton review into procurement of Covid 19 vaccine and treatment.

In June 2022, a review was called into Covid purchasing and procurement by the Australian Minister for Health and Aged Care, with the objective of ensuring government can meet all current and any future needs. The review was driven by Hon. Professor Jane Halton, and review findings were delivered  to parliament in September 2022.

The report included eight recommendations to government:

Recommendation 1: Public health campaigns designed to encourage sustained booster uptake for those that will benefit should be developed and delivered during 2023 and 2024 to improve coverage.

Recommendation 2: A clear, updated, policy framework including objectives for the management of COVID-19 should be developed to inform decision-making, purchasing, clinical decision-making and resource allocation. A statement of risk appetite should form a part of this framework.

Recommendation 3: Advisory structures should be streamlined, and advice should be integrated to enable decision-makers to undertake their role. The role of decision-makers and advisors should be clarified. Reasons for decisions should be evidenced including indicating where they are based on judgment. Care should be taken to prevent confusion at the clinical level about who is eligible to receive vaccines/treatments and recommendations for use including in respect of target populations.

Recommendation 4: Procurement decisions should be made in the context of agreed policy objectives, risk appetite (the acceptability of failure to supply), knowledge/predictions in respect of the evolution of the virus, and supply constraints including knowledge of market behaviour.

Recommendation 5: Vaccine distribution arrangements should be reviewed in order to test value for money and reduce wastage while ensuring timely access.

Recommendation 6: New mechanisms to manage stock held by the NMS for use in an ongoing pandemic or epidemic should be developed as a matter of urgency to enable greater transparency about and access to stock held.

Recommendation 7: The Department of Health and Aged Care should work with sponsors to ensure that adequate supplies of therapeutics are available to meet reasonably anticipated demand for the next two years. Mechanisms such as guarantees for minimum supply should be explored to ensure availability and access.

Recommendation 8: Steps should be taken, consistent with an agreed policy and risk appetite, to ensure adequate supplies of vaccines and treatments are available across 2023 and 2024 including in the event of spikes in demand. This should include additional Moderna vaccines in 2023 and, as a minimum and based on an assessment of ‘COVID-19 stability’, doses necessary to meet baseline demand in 2024.

This week the Australian Government responded the the recommendations, accepting seven of the eight, with one recommendation, in relation to the National Medical Stockpile (NMS),  being partially accepted, noting that certain information won’t be released due to impacts to security.

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