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Calls for priority vaccine access for supply chain workers

With the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines touching down in Australia earlier this week, three industry bodies have penned a letter to government about the need for supply chain workers to receive priority vaccine access once it is rolled out.

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC), the Freight and Trade Alliance (FTA) and the Australian Peak Shippers Association (APSA) wrote to Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Health Minister Greg Hunt.

“It makes logical sense that after the health care sector and the vulnerable are provided the initial roll-out of vaccines, as a government, you would then look to prioritise those workers that are then being tested with high frequency because they are the ones most at risk,” said ALC CEO Kirk Coningham OAM.

“Australian supply chain workers are some of the unsung COVID heroes during 2020 and now 2021. They play a critical role in supporting our communities and prioritising their safety to ensure they can continue to deliver is a must once the vaccine is available.”

Many of the sector’s workers have to undergo mandated COVID tests every seven days due to travelling between state borders.

Supply chain workers – who collectively represent over 600,000 people across freight, logistics, warehousing, international trade logistics service providers, importers and exporters – have so far been largely successful in not contributing to the spread of the disease, however the industry bodies argued that due to the nature of their work, a risk remains for the sector.

Paul Zalai, Director of the FTA and Secretariat of the ASPA added, “These essential workers in many cases cannot work from home and are critical to keep the country’s freight moving. They continue to support Australian communities during the ongoing crisis and require vaccine protection to do their jobs safely.”

The first COVID-19 vaccinations are set to begin from this Monday February 22, following the delivery of 142,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine landing in Melbourne and Sydney on Monday February 15.

Frontline health and quarantine workers, along with those in aged care will be first in line to receive the vaccine.

Distribution contracts for the vaccine were given to DHL and Linfox, which will work together with the Department of Health to distribute millions of doses across the country.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack and Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communities and Local Government Mark Coulton have recently inspected DHL Supply Chain’s large scale ultra-cold storage infrastructure.

The Pfizer vaccine, which is said to be 95 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19, needs to be stored at temperatures that range between -60 and -80 degrees Celsius, so its transportation will be a delicate task. Purpose-built dry ice containers will be used by Linfox and DHL to move the vaccine.

McCormack said DHL is one of two world-class logistics and distribution companies contracted to ensure the COVID-19 vaccines are available to everyone in Australia, no matter where they live.

“I have been determined to ensure that regional and rural Australia gets the same access to the vaccine that our cities will and that’s what we are doing,” McCormack said.

“We now have access to more than 150 million vaccine doses across the Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford AstraZeneca and Novavax vaccines, ensuring we remain a world leader in the fight against the virus.

“It is important that these vaccines, which are in high-demand worldwide, are kept safe and secure which is what the Australian Government and our logistics partners are doing.

“DHL is capable of handling close to three million Pfizer vaccine doses, as part of the initial deliveries to Australia.”

DHL will also distribute the Astra Zeneca and Novavax vaccines – when approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) – to Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and external territories, such as Norfolk Island.

DHL will also support the distribution of the Pfizer vaccine in aged care residential facilities and disability residences across Australia.

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