Australia will receive the first doses of an AstraZeneca and Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine in January 2021 if trials prove successful after Canberra agreed a deal to purchase a second potential vaccine, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday.
Australia said in August it had signed a preliminary agreement with AstraZeneca for enough doses for its population of nearly 26 million, which would be manufactured locally by pharmaceutical company CSL.
That deal appeared in some doubt when CSL said its priority was manufacturing an alternative potential vaccine developed with the University of Queensland (UQ).
Agreeing a deal to overcome the potential roadblock, Australia will now also buy 51 million doses of the UQ vaccine.
It will take possession of the first 3.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in January and February 2021, and then receive a further 30 million doses, Morrison will say in extracts from an announcement sent to Reuters.
AstraZeneca’s candidate is seen as a frontrunner in a global race to deliver an effective coronavirus vaccine.
“Australians will be among the first in the world to receive a safe and effective vaccine, should it pass late stage testing,” Morrison said.
Under the deal with UQ and CSL, Australia will buy 51 million doses of that tie-up’s vaccine. The UQ and CSL candidate is scheduled to begin phase two trials in late 2020 and if all trials are successful it could be rolled out to Australians in mid-2021.
Both deals will cost in total A$1.7 billion ($1.24 billion), Morrison explained. Should both vaccines prove successful, Australia has secured to right to donate or sell on without a mark-up.
Health officials are discussing who will receive the first doses if trials are successful, Morrison said. Vulnerable people, and front-line health care workers likely to be first in line, a source familiar with the details told Reuters.
The supply agreements come as Australia grapples with a second wave of infections in its second most populous state, Victoria. Australia has recorded more than 26,000 infections and 753 deaths.