Sydney, Australia, Sep 7 (efe-epa).- Australia will produce and distribute nearly 85 million doses of new COVID-19 vaccines in early 2021, if trials are successful, under a billion-dollar agreement with two pharmaceutical companies announced Monday.
Under the deal, worth about AU$1.7 billion ($1.2 billion), the University of Oxford with AstraZeneca and the University of Queensland with CSL will provide more than 84.8 million vaccine doses for the Australian population, almost entirely manufactured in Melbourne, according to a statement issued by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Citizens will have early access to 3.8 million doses of the Oxford University vaccine in January and February 2021, Morrison added.
“Australians will gain free access to a COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 if trials prove successful,” Morrison said. “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.”
The Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 is currently in Phase 3 trials, while the University of Queensland vaccine has shown to be promising and effective in preclinical testing in animals, the statement said.
Morrison said vaccines have to be proven safe, effective and meet regulatory requirements before being distributed to Australia’s population of 25 million, although vaccination against COVID-19 will not be mandatory.
The statement added that Morrison also “remains committed to ensuring early access to the vaccines for countries in the Pacific as well as regional partners in Southeast Asia. Both agreements allow for additional orders to be negotiated and for doses to be donated or on-sold (with no mark-up) to other countries or international organizations.”
The announcement comes as Australia continues to fight a second outbreak of the epidemic with its epicenter in the city of Melbourne, which began at the end of June when restrictions in quarantine centers for travelers arriving from abroad were allegedly violated.
Australia has accumulated some 26,300 cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, of which 762 people have died, most of them caused by the outbreak in Melbourne, which is beginning to subside due to strict lockdown measures decreed in that city, the second most populated in the country. EFE-EPA