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Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout 1.67 MB

Since its emergence in late 2019, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has become a global pandemic that is impacting on human health and national economies. On 21 January 2020, the Australian Government declared COVID-19 as a listed human disease under the Biosecurity Act 2015 (Biosecurity Act). The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 to be a ‘public health emergency of international concern’ on 30 January 2020.

The Australian Government’s August 2020 Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine and treatment strategy committed the government to building a ‘diverse global portfolio of investments to seek to secure early access to promising vaccines and treatments’, using local manufacturing wherever possible. Between September 2020 and May 2021, the Australian Government entered into agreements with five vaccine manufacturers to purchase a total of 315.3 million vaccines of different types, with some vaccines being manufactured overseas and some produced locally.

The distribution and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines has been one of the largest exercises in health logistics in Australian history. The COVID-19 vaccine rollout has required rapid and flexible planning, decision-making and implementation, to respond to the changing health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19, as well as the effective and timely acquisition and distribution of vaccines once they were created. This audit was conducted to provide independent assurance to the Parliament that Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout was planned and implemented effectively.

Key findings:

  • The Department of Health’s planning and implementation of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been partly effective. While 90 per cent of the eligible Australian population was vaccinated by the end of 2021, the planning and implementation of the vaccine rollout to priority groups was not as effective.
  • The final governance arrangements established to manage the COVID-19 vaccine rollout have been largely effective. Following the commencement of Operation COVID Shield in June 2021, senior level oversight of the program substantially increased.
  • The Department of Health’s implementation of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been partly effective. While vaccines were delivered with minimal wastage, Health’s administration of vaccines to priority populations and the general population has not met targets. The vaccine rollout to residential aged care and residential disability were both slower than planned, and the vaccination rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has remained lower than for the Australian population. Health implemented its communication strategy, but its advertising campaign has not yet been evaluated.
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Auditor-General Report No.3 2022–23