Importing the Covid-19 Vaccine - Australian Border Watch
The Australian Border Force (ABF) is working with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to ensure goods, including COVID-19 vaccines, medicines, and medical devices can enter Australia as quickly and efficiently as possible while meeting import requirements.
As we operate within the logistics industry, many of our partners can play an important role by reporting suspicious activities, behaviours and goods to Border Watch.
Discussed below are some frequently asked questions regarding the Covid-19 Vaccine and importation to the ABS.
Which vaccines are approved for legal supply in Australia?
Before any COVID-19 vaccine is approved for use in Australia, it will be subject to the well-established and rigorous assessment and approval processes of the TGA.
As of 25 January 2021, the TGA has granted provisional approval to Pfizer Australia Pty Ltd for its COVID-19 vaccine, COMIRNATY BNT162b2 [mRNA]. Visit the TGA website for a full list of COVID-19 vaccine provisional registrations.
Who can legally import approved COVID-19 vaccines?
Registered COVID-19 vaccines can only be imported by the Sponsor listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.
COVID-19 vaccines are schedule 4 prescription only medicines which must be administered by a medical professional. Most COVID-19 vaccines contain biological materials and will not be eligible for the TGA's personal importation scheme. COVID-19 vaccines that are eligible for the personal importation scheme will require a prescription from a doctor and may also require a permit from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment and the Office of Gene Technology Regulator to be legally imported.
COVID-19 vaccines are likely to first enter Australia from mid-February, with first doses to be delivered in March.
How will I know if someone is doing the wrong thing?
Be on the lookout for people trying to import unapproved or counterfeit vaccines, or import legitimate COVID-19 vaccines without approval. It is possible that some criminals may seek to 'piggyback' the details of legitimate COVID-19 vaccine importers, in order to move illicit goods into Australia.
- Has the client failed to provide all the information or documentation you require to confirm their identity?
- Is the client anxious, nervous, evasive or unreasonably demanding?
- Is the nature of the consignee's business inconsistent with the goods described on the manifest?
- Is the value of the cargo inconsistent with freight costs and the description of the goods?
- Is the client hard to contact, or are they using a web-based email address (Hotmail, Gmail, etc.)?
- Is the delivery address unusual or has it changed at the last minute?
- Is the client settling an account earlier than is normal practice, using cash or bank cheque?
If the answer to any of these questions is 'yes', the information may be of interest to Border Watch.
Remember, vaccines have special storage requirements (for example, the Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at minus-70 degrees Celsius), so be particularly vigilant around cold chain or temperature-controlled goods.
Are there any other medicines and medical devices to look out for?
Any medicines or medical devices which claim to treat, prevent or cure COVID-19 are likely to be of interest to the TGA.
What about exports?
Border Watch is interested in any suspicious movement COVID-19 vaccines, testing kits, medicines and medical devices, so if you're not sure, report it to Border Watch.
Where can I get more information?
The TGA is publishing the latest information about COVID-19 medicines and medical devices on this page. However, the situation will continue to develop, and if you still can't find the information you need, contact the TGA.
How do I report suspicious activity?
If it doesn't seem right, report it to Border Watch on 1800 06 1800 or complete a report online at abf.gov.au/borderwatch. The Border Watch industry hotline is open 24 hours a day.