COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Australia must be perfect: Elizabeth Jackson

The logistics of distributing the COVID vaccine in Australia must run smoothly. Picture: Shutterstock
The logistics of distributing the COVID vaccine in Australia must run smoothly. Picture: Shutterstock

"...the biggest and most consequential product launch in modern history" is how Bloomberg authors Brendan Murray and Riley Griffin described the global roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The task is massive as it involves much more than injecting the population: the safe manufacture, distribution, storage and administering of the vaccine to some 7.8 billion people worldwide.

About 30 per cent of Australia's population live in regional and remote locations so many of these residents will be the first recipients of Phase 1a and 1b of the nation's phased approach to the vaccine rollout.

Phase 1a covers people who work at entry points into the country and quarantine facilities; these are not always in metropolitan centres.

Phase 1b includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders over the age of 55 so given that 65 per cent of these people live in regional and remote locations, this is another group of people to be prioritised for the vaccine.

Despite demand created by pressure to save global economies and the scientific endeavour that has gone into developing a safe vaccine, the task will fail if the core principles of logistics are not followed: getting the right product, in the right quantity and right quality, in the right place at the right time, for the right customer at the right cost.

We have been assured by numerous health authorities the vaccinology of companies like AstraZeneca, Novavax and Pfeizer is robust but until our logistics and supply chain services deliver the medication safely, we are still vulnerable.

There is significant societal pressure on perfecting this process, but also warding off unethical and accidental disruptors of the roll-out is a priority. Another issue of concern is if distribution and storage fails, vaccines that could've saved lives will be wasted.

Healthy supply chains operate on the flow of three factors: product (the vaccine), finance (to pay for the development, distribution, storage and administering) and information (to monitor flows of demand and supply during the roll out).

The shorter the supply chain, the less that can go wrong so distributing to the vaccines to regional and remote Australia adds risks to the safe and secure roll out.

To ensure that Australia's allocation of precious COVID-19 vaccines reaches our population throughout the nation, efforts must be made to support the continued flow of product, finance and information to minimise supply chain disruptions.

Dr Elizabeth Jackson is from the school of management and marketing at Curtin University.

This story Logistics of COVID-19 vaccine rollout must be perfect first appeared on The Canberra Times.