- Australian Government signed a deal with AstraZeneca to secure Oxford University's COVID-19 vaccine if trials succeed.
- The Government plans to manufacture the vaccine locally and make it free for all Australians if it passes the trials.
- The total cost of the agreement is likely to be in billions of dollars. Also, the biotech firm, CSL has been discussing with AstraZeneca to decide if the vaccine being developed by them has a possibility of being generated in Australia.
- AstraZeneca has made deals with several countries including the US, Russia, Japan, China, South Korea, and Brazil and plans to produce 3 billion doses of vaccine.
- The Australian Government is also in discussions with other pharma companies while backing its own native researchers.
Recently, Australia undertook strides to secure access to a promising vaccine in a move to diminish coronavirus pandemic and would offer free access to the vaccine for Australians.
Scott Morrison Government has signed a landmark agreement with UK-based drug entity AstraZeneca to obtain the potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University if trials succeed.
Australia has recorded 24,236 coronavirus cases with a total of 463 deaths, as n 20 August (at 5:09 GMT). With the second wave of COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria last month, the country is still struggling from the infection with more than 8,500 active cases. However, the number of fresh cases has fallen in the past week.
The AstraZeneca deal comes when Australia is grappling with the second wave of COVID-19, centred in Victoria. Victoria went into a state of disaster on 2 August and placed its capital back into a lockdown. The re-imposed restrictions included a 6-week curfew, a return to online education and guidelines restricting how far people can move beyond their homes. Victoria reported 216 new cases in 24 hours period, with the total number of cases surging to 17,446, as on 19 August.
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Vaccine promised to be produced in Australia
The Federal Government has declared that it will manufacture the vaccine immediately and make it free for Australians if its trials prove successful. The vaccine is amongst the most advanced ones in the world, though, it is still in the last stage of human trials, Australia has secured early access of it for 25 million Australian natives.
The initial arrangement with AstraZeneca would include the candidate vaccine's production, development, and distribution. The estimated overall expense of the agreement is projected to run in billions of dollars and as per market reports, Australia's biggest biotechnology company, CSL Limited has been in talks with AstraZeneca to manufacture the vaccine domestically while it is also pursuing the search on a second indigenous substitute of the vaccine.
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PM Morrison said if trials prove to be positive, he anticipates the vaccine to be available by early next year, as manufacturing of the vaccine will take a further few months of time.
Australia has also inked a contract worth $25 million (£13.5 million; $18 million) with American pharmaceutical firm, Becton Dickinson, to import 100 million needles and syringes to ensure that Australia is not short of consumables in case of international shortage.
Government in talks with many companies for the vaccine
The Australian Government is also having discussions with other pharmaceutical companies involved in the development of COVID-19 vaccines, apart from AstraZeneca.
The discussions were part of the country's latest COVID-19 vaccine and cure plan, the advisory group is headed by Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy and has been set up to support the country in developing a range of secure and efficient vaccines.
There are presently above 160 applicants for the vaccine in pre-clinical and clinical tests phase, comprising 29 applicants undertaking human clinical trials. Several of these are being undertaken in Australia, with ongoing human trials for a proposed vaccine developed by the University of Queensland.
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In late July, AstraZeneca published early findings of a closely monitored Phase 1/2 study, indicating that its vaccine candidate was healthy and triggered an immune reaction. Phase 2/3 experiments would also seek to show that the vaccine is shielding citizens against COVID-19. Results are due later this year, which will rely on infection levels within the studied populations, AstraZeneca stated.
AstraZeneca has struck a deal with several organisations and countries including Russia, Japan, China, South Korea, and Brazil. The Company has already reached an agreement with the US to produce 300 million doses in early October and also inked a deal with the European Commission to deliver up to 400 million doses for all the member countries of the European Union (EU). The firm has undertaken production of at least 3 billion doses of the vaccine with first delivery to start from early September.
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Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca stated that the Company intends to make the vaccine largely and promptly available with the first doses to be distributed by the end of 2020, as manufacturing is about to begin in its European supply chain.
Morrison had earlier asserted that COVID-19 vaccinations were mandatory, but later withdrew the compulsory vaccination stating that no one will be forced to be vaccinated. However, he has now stated that the country would aim for 95% of the population to be vaccinated, while assuring that nothing would be distributed unless it is proven safe.