Detail to come on potential COVID-19 vaccine

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While sector stakeholders say it makes sense for a COVID-19 vaccine to be administered in community pharmacy, AstraZeneca says the deal with the Federal Government is a good first step

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australians will be among the first in the world to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, if it proves successful, through an agreement between the Federal Government and AstraZeneca.

“Under the deal, every single Australian will be able to receive the University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine for free, should trials prove successful, safe and effective,” reads a statement from the PM’s office.

“The Oxford vaccine is one of the most advanced and promising in world, and under this deal we have secured early access for every Australian,” said Mr Morrison, noting that the Oxford University trial is in the Phase Three stage and more work will be required to establish its viability.

“If this vaccine proves successful we will manufacture and supply vaccines straight away under our own steam and make it free for 25 million Australians.

“However, there is no guarantee that this, or any other, vaccine will be successful, which is why we are continuing our discussions with many parties around the world while backing our own researchers at the same time to find a vaccine.

“We are taking advice from Australia’s best medical and scientific expertise to ensure that the Government’s work to select, produce and purchase COVID-19 vaccines and treatments is based on the best available knowledge.”

The first announcements under the strategy include a Letter of Intent with AstraZeneca to supply the University of Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate to Australia and a consumables contract with Becton Dickinson for the supply of needles and syringes.

“The Letter of Intent covers vaccine development, production and distribution. It commits to production of the vaccine in Australia, subject to safety and effectiveness,” says the PM’s office.

“A final formal agreement will include distribution, timing and price of the vaccine.”

A spokesperson for AstraZeneca said the company is “pleased to have signed a Letter of Intent with the Australian Government today, ensuring people in Australia are a step closer to having a vaccine against COVID-19 available, should the AstraZeneca/Oxford University candidate, AZD1222, prove successful”.

“The next step will be to conclude other contractual agreements, including arrangements with a selected manufacturer who can produce the vaccine locally.

“As a company, AstraZeneca is committed to ensuring fair and equitable access to a vaccine against COVID-19, and will provide the vaccine at no profit during the pandemic.

“We look forward to confirming the next steps with the Australian Government and other critical partners shortly.”

Meanwhile CSL has issued a statement highlighting that its priority remains the development of the University of Queensland’s vaccine candidate.

“However, we are currently in discussions with AstraZeneca and the Australian Government to assess whether it is possible to provide local manufacturing support for the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine, should it prove successful, while protecting our commitment to the UQ vaccine,” CSL said in a statement.

“We are assessing the viability of options ranging from the fill and finish of bulk product imported to Australia through to manufacture of the vaccine candidate under licence.

“There are a number of technical issues to work through and discussions are ongoing.”

The Australasian College of Pharmacy and The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Queensland Branch, said the Federal Government’s announcement that every Australian will receive a free dose of the University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine could potentially save lives.

“With 97% of Queenslanders living within 2.5km of their local community pharmacy, and 65% in regional areas, it makes sense for Queenslanders to be supported with safe and convenient access to the COVID-19 vaccine, when available,” said Guild state president Trent Twomey.

 “The state’s vast network of almost 6,000 community pharmacists stands ready to continue supporting Queenslanders on the frontline during the coronavirus pandemic, by providing this life-saving vaccine.

“Queensland community pharmacist vaccinators are already trained to deliver vaccinations and are well-placed to conveniently and safely roll-out a COVID-19 vaccine, when available.”

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