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Coronavirus vaccine distribution will face hurdles, experts warn

“And for this there needs to be strong collaboration between government, industry, healthcare professionals, epidemiologists and others across the public and private sectors.”

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Johnson & Johnson is also developing a COVID-19 vaccine candidate that is currently in phase three trials and expected to be available for potential use at the start of next year.

Mr Goodwin said the company was leveraging its production capabilities globally in anticipation of launching the vaccine but noted there were a number of supply chain challenges to work through and these would take time.

“I’m sure there will be some, let’s say hurdles, that come along the way.”

Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations chair Jane Halton, who is also a member of Australia’s National COVID-19 Co-ordination Commission, said Australia was comparatively well placed in terms of supply chain challenges such as cold storage of potential vaccines and the availability of “fill and finish” products like vials for storing products.

“We are going to hit a bunch of barriers in terms of the really practical issues in the supply chain,” she said.

Federal opposition health spokesman Chris Bowen said the government’s new agreement was a positive step forward but neither of the new vaccine deals would cover the Australian population.

“We support moves to secure more advance supply deals but we were late to the party and are barely playing catch-up,” Mr Bowen said.

Mr Bowen said the Novavax vaccine deal would, in the first instance, leave 5 million Australians without access. He said there were also issues surrounding the Pfizer vaccine, which needed to be stored and distributed at temperatures as low as -80 degrees.

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But Pfizer said in a statement it had developed detailed plans to support effective vaccine transport, storage and continuous temperature monitoring.

“Pfizer is confident of its capability to deliver doses to the locations governments designate, according to product shipping requirements; and we will closely co-ordinate with all governments to support effective transport and distribution of the vaccine, subject to regulatory approval.”

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia was well placed for the rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine once clinical trials and the regulator had confirmed safety and effectiveness.

He said Australia had secured 134.8 million doses through advance purchasing agreements with four suppliers.

“This is well in excess of covering the entire population of 25 million,” Mr Hunt said, slamming Mr Bowen’s comments as “weird” and “irresponsible”.

“Suppliers that have a proven track record in vaccine logistics and distribution or booking systems, tracking and reporting of vaccines are being invited to participate in this process by limited tender,” he said.

He said the government was planning for an initial rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination program within the first quarter of next year.

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