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Moderna deal key to ‘booster strategy’ for Australia

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

The deal between the Australian government and Moderna to secure 25 million COVID-19 vaccine doses gives the country a critical “booster and variant” capability, Health Minister Greg Hunt said

The deal between the Australian government and Moderna to secure 25 million COVID-19 vaccine doses gives the country a critical "booster and variant" capability, Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

Mr Hunt confirmed the agreement today after US pharmaceutical giant Moderna announced it last night.

"Today is the next stage of future-proofing and of preparing for the future," Mr Hunt said.

READ MORE: Pfizer and Moderna vaccines could be produced in Melbourne

Moderna's vaccine uses the same mRNA technology as the Pfizer jab and has performed broadly similarly in drug trials to date.

Mr Hunt said the mRNA doses would ensure Australia had enough vaccine reserves but also provide a capability for responding to COVID-19 variants.

"They are our foundation of a booster and variant strategy. Moderna is on the advice that we have, the most advanced of the vaccine products with relation to the capacity to adapt to booster or variant requirements."

The agreement includes two lots, one which protects against the "ancestral" strain of the deadly illness and another which is an updated variant booster jab.

The first will be delivered to Australia late this year and the second shipment, of 15 million doses, is planned for 2022.

Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy, speaking alongside Mr Hunt, said the announcement was an exciting development but the pandemic threat remained,

"Moderna are probably the most advanced in developing booster vaccines," Professor Murphy said.

READ MORE: World Health Organisation updates advice on airborne spread of COVID-19

"The world is still very actively full of COVID and we are always at risk of further outbreaks in Australia."

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Both the mRNA-1273 vaccine and the booster vaccine candidate require the approval of the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Mr Hunt also said the Federal Government's aim was to produce COVID-19 vaccines onshore, with Moderna being a possible candidate.

"Our hope is that we will have at least one, if not more than one, manufacturing operation in Australia," he said.

https://twitter.com/moderna_tx/status/1392454644643909636?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Professor Murphy said local manufacturing of mRNA vaccines – such as Moderna and Pfizer - won't start until at least next year but it is technology "Australia has to have".

Australian manufacturing capacity was part of the deal signed with pharmaceutical giant Moderna.

"It is very unlikely to be this year. It is going to be some time next year," Professor Murphy said.

But he said Australia's vaccination strategy does not depend on local manufacturing and the Moderna shot will give provide wider immunisation benefits.

"mRNA vaccine technology is likely to be much broader than the COVID vaccine. So it is something that we in Australia need to have anyway," Professor Murphy said.

"It may be the way forward for flu vaccines and other novel vaccines in the future. So it is a technology that we need to have."

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While not approved yet in Australia, it has generally been listed for use in adults of all ages in countries that have rolled it out.

"We appreciate the partnership and support from the government of Australia with this first supply agreement for doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and our variant booster candidates," Stéphane Bancel, Chief Executive Officer of Moderna, said.

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"As we seek to protect people around the world with our COVID-19 vaccine and potentially our variant booster candidates, we look forward to continuing discussions with Australia about establishing potential local manufacturing opportunities."

The Federal Budget, handed down on Tuesday, included an extra $1.9 billion over five years for vaccines, including millions to spur local development of mRNA vaccines similar to Moderna's and Pfizer's.

The Victorian Government had previously announced $50 million in funding to spin up local manufacturing of the promising vaccine technology, which Melbourne lab CSL doesn't have the capability to make.

Moderna's statement on potential local production is a promising boost to those ambitions after BioNTech, the German company partnering with Pfizer, announced this week it would set up a new factory in Singapore.

Moderna added that it had already announced plans to open a commercial subsidy in Australia this year.

About 2.8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Australia to date but the rollout has been plagued by delays, much of that driven by supply issues but also over concerns about extremely rare blood clots linked to the AstraZeneca jab.

Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/national/coronavirus-australia-covid19-vaccine-moderna-announces-jab-deal/d842e041-3996-4921-a230-f47fd54fc33f

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