A free COVID-19 vaccine could be available from as early as next year under an agreement signed Monday – and pharmacists are urging the Government to let them administer it
The Federal Government has signed its deal on a potential COVID-19 vaccine with CSL and AstraZeneca, saying a free vaccine could be available progressively throughout 2021.
The PM’s office said in a statement on Monday that under the agreement, the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca and the University of Queensland/CSL will provide more than 84.8 million vaccine doses for the Australian population should trials currently underway prove successful.
If the deal is implemented, the vaccine would be almost entirely manufactured in Melbourne and 3.8 million doses of the Oxford vaccine would become available via early access in January and February 2021.
Mr Morrison stressed that safety and efficacy would need to be established and all necessary regulatory requirements met before this could happen.
“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 PM said.
The University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine (AZD1222) has entered Phase Three trials while UQ, which is developing the second vaccine candidate (V451), recently announced that its pre-clinical testing showed it was promising and already effective in animal models.
Country President of AstraZeneca Australia & New Zealand, Liz Chatwin, said in a statement on Monday that “Further to our agreement with Government, we have finalised arrangements with CSL to manufacture approximately 30 million doses of AZD1222 in Australia, in addition to 3.8 million doses sourced from overseas”.
“Approximately 34 million doses will be supplied to the Australian Government, reflecting AstraZeneca’s global commitment to ensure broad and equitable access to this vaccine against COVID-19, at no profit during the pandemic.”
CSL, noting that the number ordered by the Government is based on a two-dose per person regime, said in a statement that it had signed a Heads of Agreement with the Federal Government for the supply of 51 million doses of the UQ candidate (V451).
It also noted the separate HoA with AstraZeneca to manufacture the Oxford candidate, AZD1222.
CSL CEO and Managing Director Paul Perreault said, “The social and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a high level of urgency to the task of developing a vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and to manufacture a successful vaccine at high quality and in sufficient quantities.
“CSL has been working at pace to respond to the pandemic and has invested significant resources in the rapid development and large-scale manufacture of UQ-CSL V451, along with a number of other therapeutic programs.
“Together with partners including the University of Queensland and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI), our development and manufacturing teams have been working extremely hard to advance this program to ensure the availability of a safe and effective vaccine should clinical studies prove successful,” he said.
The HoA is between CSL’s influenza vaccines company, Seqirus, who will hold regulatory responsibility as the marketing authorisation holder, and the Australian Government.
But Mr Perreault cautioned that currently it is “impossible to predict” whether the vaccine candidates will be successful in late-stage clinical trials.
“CSL’s focus is to produce a safe and effective vaccine. It is important that on completion of clinical trials, the public has confidence in UQ-CSL V451, which makes use of the well-established recombinant protein technology platform, and Seqirus’ proprietary adjuvant MF59®, which has an extensive safety track record in humans,” Mr Perreault said.
Let us vaccinate: PSA
The Pharmaceutical Society called on all state and territory governments to ensure that legislative amendments are made now, so that should the vaccines prove successful and be distributed, pharmacists will be able to administer them.
The Queensland Government has already passed legislation that will allow pharmacists to administer a COVID-19 vaccine.
PSA National President Associate Professor Chris Freeman said administering a COVID-19 vaccine will be the primary way out of the pandemic and that Australia will need all hands on deck to ensure that there is wide and comprehensive update of the vaccine.
“Some state and territory governments have already passed legislation that will allow pharmacists to administer the COVID-19 vaccine if and when it becomes available and pharmacists are more than capable and qualified to provide this service,” he said.
“A proactive approach to legislative amendments now means that when the vaccine is available all jurisdictions around Australia will be ready to go, with the entire available health care workforce including pharmacists able to undertake a large-scale vaccination program.
“PSA has written to state and territory governments asking that any required legislative amendments are made now in preparation for when the vaccine becomes available.
“We strongly recommend that the existing community pharmacy wholesale supply chain arrangements to facilitate delivery of the vaccine stock into community pharmacies.”
The PSA highlighted that this year in response to the pandemic threat, there have been almost one million doses of flu vaccines administered to Australians through the existing pharmacist network, all while it continued to serve local communities and maintaining frontline PBS medication supply.
It also noted that as part of the recently signed Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement the Federal Government committed to supporting for harmonization of pharmacist vaccines across all Australian jurisdictions.
A/Prof Freeman said that recently Australia has seen pharmacists with improved vaccination scope provided to the community—and the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine should be viewed no differently.
“The large-scale rollout of this vaccine can only be achieved by also utilising pharmacist immunisers conveniently located in the community across Australia,” he said.
“This will be particularly critical in rural and remote areas where there may be a limited number of GPs.”