Australians will be among the first in the world to receive the University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine for free, should trials prove successful, safe and effective.
An agreement between the Australian government and UK-based drug company AstraZeneca means Australia has secured early access for every Australian.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke on Melbourne’s 3AW radio on Wednesday morning. He said he expects the vaccine for COVID-19 would be mandatory should stage three trials prove successful, though more work is needed to prove its viability.
“I mean, we’re talking about a pandemic that has destroyed you know, the global economy and taken the lives of hundreds of thousands all around the world and over 450 Australians here,” he said.
“We need the most extensive and comprehensive response to this to get Australia back to normal.”
The Oxford vaccine is described by Australia’s PM as “the most advanced and promising in the world”.
Greek-British geneticist Menelas Pangalos, the Executive Vice President of BioPharmaceuticals Research and Development at AstraZeneka, from Chios is part of the team creating the vaccine, called AZD1222. The vaccine is under development in collaboration with UK-based global pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. Trial results published in the Lancet medical journal found that the strongest response was seen in people who received two doses.
“We are encouraged by the Phase I/II interim data showing AZD1222 was capable of generating a rapid antibody and T-cell response against SARS-CoV-2. While there is more work to be done, today’s data increases our confidence that the vaccine will work and allows us to continue our plans to manufacture the vaccine at scale for broad and equitable access around the world,” Dr Pangalos said.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said, “From early on Australian officials led by my department has been meeting with developers and manufacturers of a number of promising vaccine candidates, both domestic and international, over recent months.
“We are confident these actions and targeted investments will put us in the best possible position to secure early access to safe and effective vaccines for Australia.”
The country’s most experienced scientists, biotech and pharmaceutical experts have been brought together to provide advice on acquiring a portfolio of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccinations.
The COVID-19 Vaccines and Treatments for Australia – Science and Industry Technical Advisory Group met for the first time earlier this week.
The advisory group is led by Professor Brendan Murphy, Secretary of the Department of Health, who has a leading role in managing the Government’s pandemic response.
The group will also provide advice on implementing Australia’s COVID-19 Vaccine and Treatment Strategy that drives the Government’s work with the states and territories, research organisations, industry, regulators and other countries.
Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews said Australia’s manufacturing capability is a huge asset in the push to deliver a COVID vaccine.
“The Australian pharmaceutical industry and its ability to produce vaccines is already among the best in the world and that puts us in a strong position to be able to roll out a COVID vaccine as quickly as possible,” Minister Andrews said.
“Through a coordinated approach and strategic investments we can also improve our knowledge and strengthen our manufacturing capability to respond in the future.”
Australia is contributing significantly to vaccine development work both in Australia and around the world, investing $333 million in vaccines, therapeutics and COVID medicines – including $256 million in vaccines.
This includes $5 million for the University of Queensland’s innovative “molecular clamp” COVID-19 vaccine. This Australian vaccine has commenced trials here in Australia.
The University of Queensland has partnered with CSL to manufacture its vaccine here in Australia. CSL has made a commitment that its dose allocation of the University of Queensland vaccine will be used, at a minimum, to support its long-standing public health commitment to the Australian community.