Australia signs global deal securing access to future COVID-19 vaccines

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Australia will have access to some of the world’s leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates after the Federal Government committed more than $120 million to enter a global vaccine agreement.

The Federal Government has struck a deal to join the global vaccines facility known as COVAX, which is co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO), epidemic response group CEPI and the Vaccine Alliance of Governments and Organisations (GAVI).

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Government’s initial $123 million investment gave Australia the opportunity to buy doses for up to half the population if one of the vaccines in the scheme was successful, with purchases of doses to be negotiated as potential vaccines are proven to meet safety and effectiveness standards.

But he said the money spent was also a down payment for any future vaccines.

“It gives us a place at the front at the queue, but it also acts as a credit towards any vaccines we may purchase through that facility,” he said.

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Countries have swiftly joined the COVAX scheme

More than 150 countries, representing 64 per cent of the world’s population have signed-on to the scheme, which aims to develop and distribute 2 billion doses of safe, effective vaccines by the end of 2021.

Under the plan, rich and poor countries pool their money to try to level the playing field and ensure lower-income countries also get fair and equitable access to any future vaccines.

Mr Hunt said 92 developing countries were being supported in the scheme.

“What that means is we’re not just helping Australia, but we’re helping the developing world — Asia, Africa, Latin America — countries and people who might otherwise not be able to access a vaccine, through the international buyer’s club, the COVAX facility, will have access to vaccines,” he said.

By having a wide portfolio of vaccine trials signed up to their program, the idea is at least one will be successful

The Government has already signed a deal with UK-based drug company AstraZeneca to secure the potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University, if its trials prove successful.

There are currently more than 160 vaccine candidates in pre-clinical and clinical trials, including 29 undergoing clinical trials in humans.

Several of those are being conducted in Australia, with human trials underway for a potential vaccine developed by the University of Queensland.

Mr Hunt said the Government was not confining its search for a vaccine to just one.

“It gives us the best shot, at the best protection, at the health of Australians.

“We are well placed, we’re in a strong position, and at the same time we’re also doing our bit to help other countries around the world.”

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