Sally Whyte

‘Confidence is increasing’: Minister says first vaccines due early 2021 | The Canberra Times

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Health Minister Greg Hunt has moved to allay concern about Australia’s capability to manufacture a vaccine for COVID-19, saying the clinical trials are on track and his confidence grows with each day that passes. Industry Minister Karen Andrews conceded on ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday that if a non-protein based vaccine for the virus were to be successful, it would take longer for it to be produced onshore in Australia, as that capability would need to be developed. Ms Andrews had said biotech company CSL already produced protein-based vaccines and would be in a position to start rolling out a COVID-19 vaccine straight away once it was approved. However, she said there was still significant work to do if the vaccine was non-protein based and it could take longer to roll-out. “I would hope that we would be able to do it in about the nine-month to 12-month time frame, but I think we need to be really conscious that with a vaccine, there are a lot of variables in there,” she said. “So we don’t have the vaccine proven at this point in time, we don’t know what the base for that vaccine is going to be, so we are trying to prepare across a wide range.” But Mr Hunt said Australia’s inability to manufacture a mRNA-based vaccine shouldn’t be cause for concern. “The world has never had an mRNA vaccine before. No one in the world has ever had that. So that’s a new technology around the world,” he said. “We have the AstraZeneca vaccine, we have the molecular clamp. We’re in the fortunate position that as a country we have taken steps over time and CSL has taken steps to prepare for a moment such as this. “They have the manufacturing capability right now, they’re preparing that manufacturing capability right now.” professionals would be on the college’s books when an update specific to the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available. “Immunisers have to update their training very year to keep current, it’s likely that we would also do the work to provide free education for those current immunisers to get the update,” Ms Ward said. A record number of Australians got the flu vaccine in 2020; 7.3 million people had it by the end of May. Ms Ward said the potential rollout of a COVID vaccine would be on a scale unlike anything seen in Australia before and would need to ensure it had as many qualified people as possible. “We could start to educate people now and it would take a month or two and they would ready.” READ MORE: The government has already provided $130 million to upgrade facilities at pharmaceutical company CSL, with whom it has signed a deal to manufacture two vaccine candidates if they prove successful. Mr Hunt said he was still confident that the first doses of a vaccine could be administered to health professionals in Australia in the first quarter of 2021. “We’ve been exceptionally cautious in relation to the vaccines and each day the evidence is stronger and the proximity to distribution of that treatment is closer,” he said.

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