26 September 2023

Vaccine rollouts don’t impress auditor

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A performance audit into the Department of Health and Aged Care’s planning and implementation of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has found it was ‘partly effective’.

In his report Australia’s COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout, Auditor-General Grant Hehir said that 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 as it could have been.

“While vaccines were delivered with minimal wastage, Health’s administration of vaccines to priority populations and the general population has not met targets,” Mr Hehir said.

“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,” he said.

“Health implemented its communication strategy, but its advertising campaign has not yet been evaluated.”

Mr Hehir said the Department of Health’s approach to planning the vaccine rollout became more effective as the rollout progressed, with it undertaking largely appropriate planning to establish administration channels and logistics for the rollout and developing a fit-for-purpose communication strategy.

He said however that planning was not timely, as detailed planning with States and Territories was not completed before the rollout commenced and Health underestimated the complexity of administering in-reach services to the aged care and disability sectors.

“Further, it did not incorporate the Government’s targets for the rollout into its planning until a later stage,” he said.

“Health identified and continually reassessed risks to the rollout, adapting its planning in response to realised risks,” he said.

“The final governance arrangements established to manage the COVID-19 vaccine rollout have been largely effective.”

Mr Hehir said the Department put in place effective monitoring and reporting arrangements using the best available data, however it did not undertake sufficient reporting against targets and did not have adequate assurance over the completeness and accuracy of the data and third-party systems.

He made two recommendations related to improving data quality and IT controls, and conducting a comprehensive review of the rollout to identify opportunities for improvement in the event of a future vaccine rollout.

The Auditor-General’s Report can be accessed at this PS News link and a 111-page pdf version at this link.

The audit team was Julian Mallett, Laura Trobbiani, Anne Kent, Sarah Koehler, Olivia Robbins, Elizabeth Wedgwood, Matthew Rigter, Alexander Wilkinson and Daniel Whyte.

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