The government has secured deals for two further COVID-19 vaccines, taking its portfolio of agreements to four.
Under the latest agreements, to be announced by Scott Morrison on Thursday, Novavax would supply 40 million vaccine doses and Pfizer/BioNTech would provide 10 million doses.
The Novavax and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines are expected to be available in Australia from early to mid next year, subject to the success of trials and the needed approvals.
This brings the government’s vaccine investment to more than $3.2 billion, with a total of 134 million doses.
Morrison, while cautioning that there was no assurance of an effective vaccine, said: “By securing multiple COVID-19 vaccines we are giving Australians the best shot at early access to a vaccine, should trials prove successful.
“We aren’t putting all our eggs in one basket and we will continue to pursue further vaccines should our medical experts recommend them.
“There are no guarantees that these vaccines will prove successful, however our strategy puts Australia at the front of the queue, if our medical experts give the vaccines the green light.”
The earlier vaccine agreements involve the University of Queensland/CSL and Oxford/AstraZeneca.
People are likely to need two doses of Novavax Inc’s vaccine, hence the 40 million doses. The vaccine, if it is found safe and effective, would be expected to arrive from early next year. It would be manufactured in the United States and the Czech Republic.
Novavax’s vaccine candidate began phase three clinical trials in the United Kingdom in September.
Under the other new agreement, the vaccine Pfizer and BioNTech are jointly developing would also be expected early next year, if the vaccine – now in phase three clinical trials – passes muster. It would be manufactured in the US, Belgium and Germany.
The Pfizer/BioNTech is a messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) type vaccine and the Novovax vaccine is a protein type vaccine.
Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine portfolio now has two protein vaccines and one mRNA and one viral vector type vaccine.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said: “The goal and the expectation is that Australians who sought vaccination will be vaccinated within 2021.”
Workers in health and aged care, and older people and others most vulnerable to COVID would have first access.
Vaccination places would initially include GPs, GP respiratory clinics, state and territory vaccination sites and workplaces such as aged care facilities.
The vaccine would be free and not mandatory.
The federal government is consulting with the states and territories, medical experts and industry peak bodies about the initial roll-out of the vaccination program early next year.
Internationally, Australia has also joined the COVAX facility, which would provide access to a large portfolio of vaccination candidates and manufactures around the world for up to half of the Australian population.