Australia will spend A$1 billion ($726.3 million) underwriting construction of a vaccine manufacturing plant under a deal with a unit of biomedical giant CSL Ltd, guaranteeing the supply of flu shots and antivenins, the federal government said on Monday.
Under the deal, CSL vaccine subsidiary Seqirus would spend A$800 million building the facility in the city of Melbourne, while the government would guarantee purchase of its vaccines for 10 years, local media reported.
The purchase agreement would begin when the new plant opens in 2026, in time for the expiry of a current supply agreement with CSL which runs until about 2025, media added.
“We’re currently well placed, but we want to be even better placed because who knows what will come,” Health Minister Greg Hunt told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
“We’ll have that national vaccine manufacturing capability as well as the long-term contracts for flu and for anti-venoms.”
Hunt added the new CSL plant would be the largest vaccine manufacturing plant in the southern hemisphere.
The Australian government has already struck agreements with CSL to supply two potential vaccines for the new coronavirus which are being trialled by Britain’s AstraZeneca Plc and the Australia’s University of Queensland.