Health Minister Launches Review of Former Government’s COVID-19 Vaccine Deals, Existing Stocks

Health Minister Mark Butler has ordered an accelerated review of existing vaccine deals and whether changes should be made to current agreements to support Australia’s future deliveries.

The investigation will be led by senior official Jane Halton, who also oversaw the national review of hotels’ quarantine arrangements.

Mr Butler said the assessment would not serve as a deeper examination of the previous government’s response to the pandemic, but would instead focus on advising the government on what to focus on in the coming years. to concentrate.

“There will be a time… for a proper investigation into the country’s response to this pandemic, whether that be a royal commission as recommended by the Senate committee or some other very in-depth investigation,” he said.

“It’s not about looking back and examining the rights and injustices of the way the former government negotiates these contracts in the first place.

“It’s about the now and the next 12 to 18 months.”

Portrait of Jane Halton
Jane Halton will lead the review.Four corners

The health minister said the key elements of the assessment would be:

  • Inventory of current vaccine contracts and deliveries in the country
  • Looking ahead and advising on likely vaccine developments this year and in 2023
  • Provide advice on existing vaccine deals and agreements and whether changes are needed

Mr Butler said he had “no judgment” on the existing deals, and that the focus was on ensuring Australia could adapt to future developments in the disease and vaccines.

“I have no reason to think so” [the vaccine deals] are not appropriate, but this is a fast-moving landscape, you know,” he said.

“We have to make sure we’re agile here.”

The health minister said that while he had not set a deadline for the review, he had made it clear that there was a degree of urgency.

“Obviously it’s something we want to do in weeks, not many months,” he said.

Mr Butler defended the decision to have the review conducted by Ms Halton and not the Department of Health, saying he thought it was not uncommon for the new government to want independent advice on deals struck while in opposition .

Australian Medical Association (AMA) president Omar Khorshid said the organization welcomed the review, adding that it was essential to ensure that the best treatments, such as Omicron-specific vaccines, are delivered as quickly in the future. might become available.

“That’s absolutely crucial, that once the new vaccines come online, [shown to be] safe and effective… that we can access it,” he said.

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