Documents reveal the Federal Government’s plans for a massive roll-out of a vaccine to protect Australians against COVID-19, even before a successful inoculation has been discovered anywhere in the world.
- The information will be used in an audit of our ability to make the vaccine
- The documents were only created on Monday, August 10, and tenders must be lodged by 2pm on August 20
- The tenders, available on the Government’s AusTender procurement website, also seek companies who have “capacity and capability” with packaging, materials and storage, particularly cold-chain management
“The Commonwealth of Australia … is working to seek early access to and delivery of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines and treatments as soon as they are available,” an official ‘Request for Information’ (RFI) document said.
“The scope of this RFI is to identify capacity that could be applied to support onshore COVID-19 vaccine and treatment manufacture, distribution and administration activity.”
The tenders, jointly issued by the Departments of Health and Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, seek information from local companies about producing and distributing the vaccine here.
The request for the ‘Australian Onshore COVID-19 Vaccine and Treatment Manufacture and Supply Chain’ wants to hear from current and prospective manufacturers with factories in Australia, or the capacity to build their operations here to make a future COVID-19 vaccine.
“It’s about trying to anticipate what kind of roll out we could see. What do we have? What investment would we need to make it happen?” said Professor Vivek Chaudhri, academic director of the Executive MBA programs at Melbourne Business School.
“Really what they’re looking for is an understanding of our capacity to [make and distribute] a vaccine … so they can start thinking about a possible strategy — and what investments need to be made.”
Professor Chaudhri is an advisor on strategy to Paul Perreault, chief executive of vaccine maker CSL — which is working on a vaccine with the University of Queensland and would likely be tapped as part of any production effort.
“It’s good policy,” he said. “It’s to get as robust an understanding as they can of the current lay of the land of the capability to produce a vaccine.”
The information will be used in an audit of our ability to make the vaccine.
There seems to be few barriers, with the audit attempting to identify opportunities to, “utilise, expand, modify or repurpose capability and capacity” to support making, distributing and administering COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.
The documents were only created on Monday, August 10, and tenders must be lodged by 2pm on August 20.
The documents flag the Government’s intention to smash any roadblocks to the speedy delivery of a vaccine id one is discovered and can be manufactured.
Asked what is required to “scale up” production or modify existing factories to produce the desperately sought vaccine, it offers four examples of rules or standards that may need to be ignored or sped up:
- Capital investment in building or refitting facilities
- Change in workforce planning/scheduling
- Workforce training and/or recruitment
- Regulatory approval
The tenders, available on the Government’s AusTender procurement website, also seek companies who have “capacity and capability” with packaging, materials and storage, particularly cold-chain management (storing vaccines at a consistent and safe room temperature).
The documents are not a request for tender, for companies to bid for work, but they are evidence that the departments won’t wait for a vaccine to be trialled and proved before preparing the ability to deliver it to Australia’s 25 million people — and our neighbours — at great speed.
The tenders contain general government clauses, such as the need for companies to pay their own costs in preparing the submission, and the ineligibility of terrorist groups or organisations that have had funds frozen by the United Nations to take part.
“It’s a forward-looking piece that’s required, so when we get to a vaccine — here or overseas — we’re not reliant on dosages being manufactured elsewhere and coming here … because we’ll be low down in the pecking order,” said Professor Chaudhri.
“We want to be ready to roll out, as soon as something is available.”