A free COVID-19 vaccine will be available progressively throughout 2021 in Australia, if promising trials prove successful, following a $1.7 billion supply and production agreement between the Australian Government and pharmaceutical companies.
Under the agreement, the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca and the University of Queensland/CSL will provide more than 84.8 million vaccine doses for the Australian population, almost entirely manufactured in Melbourne, with early access to 3.8 million doses of the University of Oxford vaccine in January and February 2021.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said both vaccines would need to be proven safe and effective, and meet all necessary regulatory requirements, prior to being made available to the public.
“Australians will gain free access to a COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 if trials prove successful,” the Prime Minister said.
“By securing the production and supply agreements, Australians will be among the first in the world to receive a safe and effective vaccine, should it pass late stage testing.
“There are no guarantees that these vaccines will prove successful, however the agreement puts Australia at the top of the queue, if our medical experts give the vaccines the green light.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australians would be among the first in the world to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, once it is available.
“The Australian Government is a strong supporter of immunisation in that it is a safe and effective way to prevent the spread of many diseases in the community that can cause hospitalisation, serious ongoing health conditions, or even death,” Minister Hunt said.
“All vaccinations help save lives and protect lives. This vaccination though is fundamental to the safety of individuals and our nation and it will protect our elderly and our frail and we can all help save lives.”
“While the Government supports immunisation, it is not mandatory and individuals maintain the option to choose not to vaccinate.
“Any decisions regarding vaccines will be based on the advice of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation and other experts, and will be contingent on a vaccine meeting all requirements with regard to testing and safety.”
This commitment forms a crucial part of the Federal Government’s response to COVID-19 and our strategy to protect the health and wellbeing of Australians and the national economy.
The Prime Minister also remains committed to ensuring early access to the vaccines for countries in the Pacific as well as regional partners in Southeast Asia. Both agreements allow for additional orders to be negotiated and for doses to be donated or on-sold (with no mark-up) to other countries or international organisations.
Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said these agreements demonstrate what can be achieved when researchers and industry work together.
“Both these vaccines were initially tested by the CSIRO’s Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness in Geelong, while the UQ vaccine is being developed with $5 million in support from the Federal Government,” Minister Andrews said.
“Now our nation’s manufacturing prowess will ensure Australia is in the strongest position to roll out a vaccine as quickly as possible, if and when it proves safe and effective.
“The work we are doing now will also build our knowledge and strengthen our local manufacturing capability, which will grow our pharmaceutical and medtech sectors for the future.”
The University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is world leading, having entered Phase three trials. To date it has generated strong immune responses, with no significant safety concerns.
The University of Queensland (UQ) vaccine has been developed in Australia by world class scientists and researchers, with support from the Australian Government.
UQ has recently announced that pre-clinical testing showed the vaccine is promising and already effective in animal models.
This production and supply agreement is part of the Australian Government’s COVID Vaccine and Treatment Strategy and was recommended by the expert advisory group - COVID-19 Vaccine and Treatments for Australia – Science and Industry Technical Advisory Group.
The deal leverages the manufacturing capability of experienced Australian pharmaceutical manufacturer CSL/Seqirus and will ensure that the vaccines will be manufactured onshore, to the highest quality standards at the earliest possible time.
Australia has a long history of vaccine development and vaccination which ensures Australians are protected from deadly and debilitating diseases including vaccines for rubella, polio and cervical cancer.
The Australian Government is contributing significantly to vaccine development work both in Australia and around the world, investing $362 million in vaccines, therapeutics and COVID medicines - including $257 million in vaccines.