If two promising COVID-19 vaccines prove successful, Australia will buy 84.8 million doses at a cost of $1.7 billion.
On Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, health minister Greg Hunt and science minister Karen Andrews announced deals for the local manufacture of the Oxford University and University of Queensland vaccines.
As part of the agreement, 3.8 million doses of the Oxford University vaccine could be available in January and February 2021, if trials continue to prove successful.
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,” he 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.”
Mr Hunt said the vaccine would not be mandatory.
“While the government supports immunisation, it is not mandatory and individuals maintain the option to choose not to vaccinate,” he said.
“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.
“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,” Mr Hunt said.
“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.”
The Oxford University vaccine has entered phase three trials and is generating strong immune responses with no significant safety concerns.
The University of Queensland recently announced that pre-clinical testing showed their vaccine is promising and already effective in animal models. It is now being tested on 120 adults in Brisbane.
The total number of vaccines ordered by the government is based on a two dose per person regime with both vaccines requiring an initial dose, followed up by a booster shot.
The vaccines will be manufactured in Melbourne by CSL as part of the two agreements.
Labor health spokesperson Chris Bowen welcomed the deal, but attacked the prime minister for announcing the agreement for the Oxford vaccine back in August, when it had only now been signed.
“This is what the prime minister told Australians he had done three weeks ago when he hadn’t yet done it,” Mr Bowen said.
Do you think the vaccine should be mandatory once it is available? Will you feel comfortable taking the vaccine once it is available?
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