PM Scott Morrison has announced his government has secured a coronavirus vaccine deal with a manufacturer, who will make the vaccine free for all Australians if it passes clinical trials.
The government signed a deal with AstraZeneca, a drug company based in the UK that secures Australia access to Oxford University’s trial COVID-19 vaccine that is currently undergoing testing.
Oxford University has said that its potential vaccine has passed into its third phase of the trial period, and will now be used on volunteers to confirm its efficacy. According to a report from the ABC, “it has been considered a frontrunner in the global race for a vaccine, which includes more than 160 candidates.”
Of these 160 candidates, 29 are currently entering clinical trials involving humans.
Scott Morrison has told reporters that if successful in trials, the Australian government would begin manufacturing the vaccine and make it freely accessible to all Australians.
“The Oxford vaccine is one of the most advanced and promising in the world, and under this deal, we have secured early access for every Australian,” he said, adding that “there are about 160 different projects around the world and Professor Brendan Murphy is leading a team of experts to identify and work through the other promising options.”
“Of course, we have the University of Queensland option which is not quite as advanced as what is happening with Oxford, but that is making good progress,” he told Today.
AstraZeneca, the drug company the government has reached an agreement with has previously stated that it does not intend to turn a profit on manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines.
CEO Pascal Soriot has said that “we felt, there is a time in life when companies need to step up and make a contribution…. This is the kind of time in history when humankind is really threatened as a whole,” he said.
Mr Soriot says his organisation’s supply chain can handle the manufacturing and distribution of more than 2 billion doses of the vaccine, at a price rumoured to be in single-dollars.
The UK government has already moved to secure more than 100 million doses of the test drug, with the Australian government signing a similar, yet more effective deal when it comes to manufacturing and distributing it to Australian shores.
According to reports, if Oxford University’s trials are successful and the vaccine is signed-off for public use, Australia will receive the formula and have permission to manufacture it on Australian shores.
Early reports are estimating that the vaccine will be ready for mass production in early 2021, where they will be produced by CSL at its Parkville lab in Melbourne.
“The hope is we can get it to everyone as quickly as possible,” Morrison said, adding that “you are obviously going to deal with those who are most vulnerable and the medical experts will set that queue up, but they will move very quickly.”
“We would expect it to be as mandatory as you can possibly make it,” Morrison said, continuing to explain that “there are always exemptions for any vaccine on medical grounds, but that should be the only basis.”
Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt has said that the deal represents “the prospect of getting out of this [pandemic].”
“There’s obviously more science to go, but we’re in a position that we can provide for and protect all Australains, assuming that trials are as successful as they appear to be. We will be providing it to the whole of the Australian population for free,” Hunt added.
“Our goal is for the whole population and your priority, naturally, would start with the elderly and the health workers and those with special needs but we will be getting it out as quickly as possible to as many people as possible,” Hunt concluded.
The Government has also signed a $24.7 million deal with US medical company Becton Dickinson to secure 100 million syringes and needles in anticipation of potential supply chain issues when a vaccine is ready to be rolled out.