Why data is key to Australia's vaccine rollout
Vaccines are rolling out across the globe and in Australia, but the supply chain logistics of inoculating 7.8 billion people around the world, and 26 million locally, are significant.
These challenges are so great that — coupled with the politics of getting vaccines from the countries producing them, as well as the time lag associated with local production — the vaccination program in Australia might go into 2022.
So what are the supply chain issues for getting Australians vaccinated, and what role does data and analytics play?
The cold chain
The Pfizer vaccine requires storage at temperatures significantly below 0°C. While there are robust cold-chain logistics in Australia, until recently there was nothing available that could store and transport the vaccines at the required temperatures. While this situation has largely been addressed, there are still issues associated with getting the vaccine to rural and remote communities across Australia. Compounding this is the fact that the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines require two injections at separate intervals for maximum effectiveness. This doubles the supply chain challenges we face.
Another challenge with getting the jab to the right people is that, to achieve herd immunity, at least 80% of the global population must receive the vaccine. That needs to be coordinated in Australia across multiple jurisdictions using the best data we have available from previous vaccine programs.
Data is the key
Supply chains are full of data at every step, and that data must be analysed and used to maximise the reach of the vaccination program.
Last-mile delivery poses the biggest challenge: the long haul gets the most attention — that is, getting the product from the producers and manufacturers — but that’s just the beginning.
Once vaccines have landed in Australia (if coming from overseas), and the quality assured, they must be distributed across the country. Urban centres are easier when it comes to vaccinating the community, with most of Australia’s population living in these centres, but rural and regional areas have significant numbers of people requiring vaccinations. This means that state and federal governments need to have a good handle on not just population health data but also social data, to monitor where and in which groups the disease is spiking. This data, coupled with a robust analytics platform, will help governments and their distribution partners understand which groups are vulnerable, which have underlying health conditions and, from there, where the priority injections should go.
Helping the analytics side of the equation is data from previous vaccine programs, including the annual flu jab. This data assists governments to determine the priority groups. Priority groups include healthcare and frontline workers, the elderly, those in long-term care and people with chronic health conditions.
While the various vaccines are being manufactured quickly, it’s the supply chain that is the most critical element in getting the medicine out into the community and into the arms of Australian citizens. Getting it right means governments must work together, along with partners in distribution and logistics, to get real-time data to tackle these supply chain conundrums.
Vaccinating Australians is the single largest logistical exercise the nation has undertaken in several generations. From tracking stock levels and uptake to wastage and misuse, shortages and recalls, adverse reactions and comorbidities, data is critical in the complete end-to-end vaccine program supply chain.
With access to the right data along the supply chain, at every step, countries, local jurisdictions, manufacturers and everyone else involved will have the insight needed to make sure the vaccination program works efficiently. Without data and analytics, the program won’t work, and Australia’s most vulnerable will be left hanging.
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