Coronavirus: Australia leads race toward getting vaccinated, signs important deals
Australians might be the first ones to get protection from coronavirus, thanks to two deals that Prime Minister Scott Morrison has inked with those developing the vaccines. The country is hoping to roll out nearly 85 million free doses of vaccines in 2021, if they are found to be safe for use. The deals would reportedly cost $1.24 billion. Here's more.
The deals will help Australia procure the vaccine developed by Oxford University (in collaboration with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca), and the one that is being made locally, by the University of Queensland and CSL. People would likely be required to take two doses — a first dose and a booster — of both vaccines. Health Minister Greg Hunt said the vaccines could provide "multi-year protection."
Morrison is hoping that Australia's 25 million population could start getting vaccinated from January 2021, but he underscored that there is no "guarantee." "However the agreements put Australia at the top of the queue if our medical experts give the vaccines the green light," the PM said. Speaking to reporters in Canberra he said, "Australia needs some hope."
Notably, CSL will be producing theirs and rival AstraZeneca's vaccine onshore. As part of the agreements, 33.8 million doses of the Oxford vaccine and 51 million doses of the CSL one will be produced in Australia. In August, CSL chief financial officer had said it would be premature to comment about mass-production but the deal confirms that the company is more confident now.
The CSL vaccine showed promising results in animal trials and has been administered to 120 adults from Brisbane. It is expected to enter second stage trials later this year, which implies that it won't hit the markets before mid-2021. Meanwhile, the Oxford vaccine, AZD1222, dubbed as the frontrunner globally, has shown favorable results so far. In August, Australia declared its intentions to purchase AZD1222.
Last month, Morrison invited criticism when he said he would like to make vaccination as "mandatory as you can possibly make it." However, he backpedaled on his remarks saying he can't hold anyone down and make them take the doses. "Can I be really clear to everyone? It's not going to be compulsory to have the vaccine, OK?" Morrison announced.
As far as coronavirus numbers are concerned, Australia recorded 26,322 cases and 762 deaths till now. However, the Southeastern state of Victoria has emerged as an epicenter of the second wave of infections. Nearly 75% of the total cases and 90% of the deaths were reported from there. On Sunday, 41 fresh cases, the lowest single-day rise since June 26, were reported.