A federal government review of Australia’s COVID-19 preparedness is about looking towards the future rather than focusing on past mistakes, the health minister says.

The review will be headed up by former health department boss Jane Halton, who will examine the pharmaceutical contracts for Australia’s COVID vaccines and treatments signed by the previous government.

Mark Butler says existing vaccines and treatments are effective at preventing severe disease and wants Australians to have access to the best in new health measures.

As virus variations emerge and new vaccines enter the market, Ms Halton will ensure Australia is at “the front of the queue” when it comes to access, Mr Butler said.

“I want to be looking forward,” he told ABC radio on Friday.

“I want to make sure that we’re prepared over the coming six- to 18-months for the rest of this year and into 2023, given what we can predict is going to happen with this virus mutating.”  

The health minister expects the review to be conducted in weeks and not months to prepare Australia for new waves of cases.

A separate review of the former government’s pandemic management will be undertaken in the future but not while Australia was still grappling with health challenges, Mr Butler said.

“We’re still seeing 300 Australians tragically die every week,’ he said.

“Looking back and examining what we did well and what we didn’t do so well will be something we have to do at some point, but not yet.”

But Australians want the new government to hit the ground running, not reviewing, deputy opposition leader Sussan Ley said.

“I’ll be out there today urging people to get vaccinated where they haven’t been, and to remind them that the vaccines are safe, efficient (and) they work,” she told the Seven Network on Friday.

“That’s the most important thing for this government to focus on: protecting the population.”