Australia plans free vaccines if trial succeeds

Australia says it plans to roll out a coronavirus vaccine for free to its citizens if trials are a success.

On Wednesday (August 19), Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his country has struck a deal with British drugmaker AstraZeneca to make and distribute enough doses of a potential vaccine for its 25 million people.

"There are around 160 different vaccine projects around the world today, some of those are well advanced like the AstraZeneca proposal and they are teaming up with the University of Oxford," he said.

"And should we be in a position for the trials to be successful, we would hope that this would be made available early next year, if it can be done sooner than that, great. But we are very much in the hands of people wearing white coats and there's plenty around here today and they have been doing tremendous work not just here but all around the world."

All Australians will be offered doses of the vaccine but a medical panel will determine the priority list of who receives it first.

AstraZeneca last month said good data was coming in so far on its vaccine.

It's already in large-scale human trials and widely seen as the front-runner in the race for a shot against the novel coronavirus.

Meanwhile Australia's Victoria state, home to the city of Melbourne, has seen a slowdown in new cases in recent days.

A flare-up there two weeks ago forced authorities to impose a nightly curfew and shut large parts of the state's economy.