Virus vaccine production starts next week

Paul Osborne
·3-min read

Manufacturing of the first coronavirus vaccine for Australians will start in Melbourne next week.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed the significant step by AstraZeneca and CSL as he announced two more vaccine agreements, taking Australia's deal total to four.

"With the arrangement with AstraZeneca, that process begins next week, but the vaccines will become available over the course of next year, starting in quarter one," Mr Morrison said on Thursday.

Health secretary Brendan Murphy said the first doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine would come from overseas.

But there will then be a schedule of delivery over the course of 2021 for locally made supplies.

CSL signed an agreement with AstraZeneca in September to make 30 million doses of the Oxford University-developed vaccine.

It also has a deal with the University of Queensland on another vaccine.

Mr Morrison was in Sydney to announce a deal with Novavax to supply 40 million vaccine doses and Pfizer-BioNTech for 10 million doses.

This brings the government's total coronavirus vaccine investment to more than $3.2 billion.

Access to the vaccines is subject to clinical trial outcomes and approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

The Novavax vaccine, made in the United States and the Czech Republic, will require two doses per person, with the first supply expected to arrive in early 2021.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine candidate is set to arrive in a similar time frame and will be made in the US, Belgium and Germany.

It is a messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) type vaccine and the Novovax vaccine is a protein type.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia's coronavirus vaccine portfolio now had two protein vaccines, one mRNA and one viral vector type vaccine.

"The goal and the expectation is that Australians who sought vaccination will be vaccinated within 2021," Mr Hunt said.

Health and aged care workers, the elderly and the vulnerable will be the first to gain access.

People will be able to initially access the vaccines from GPs, respiratory clinics, state and territory vaccination sites and workplaces such as aged care facilities.

It will not be mandatory and will be free of charge.

A proportion of Australia's 134 million doses will go to Pacific and Southeast Asian countries.

On Thursday, the national incident centre confirmed Australia had again recorded a zero community transmission day.

"This occurs at a time when the world has recorded its second highest daily global case numbers and sadly its highest daily loss of life," Mr Hunt said.

Public health agencies reported 8001 new deaths and 489,944 new cases worldwide.

Victoria recorded no new cases or deaths from the virus for the sixth day in a row.

NSW is set to reopen its border with Victoria on November 23 after being closed for four months.

"I hope the announcement encourages both the WA premier and the Queensland premier to follow suit," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

"Yes, we're all residents of a state but we have a national economy which we all have to support."