The Australian Government has signed a letter of intent with a UK drug company that will see all Australians supplied with Covid-19 vaccinations, should they pass trials.
AstraZeneca has one of the “most advanced and promising” vaccines in the world, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday.
“Under this deal we have secured early access for every Australian,” Morrison said.
“If this vaccine proves successful we will manufacture and supply vaccines straight away under our own steam.”
But how much will it cost me?
The vaccine will be administered for free to 25 million Australians, the Prime Minister confirmed in a joint statement with the minister for health, Greg Hunt, and the minister for science and technology, Karen Andrews.
“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,” Morrison added.
He said he will also work to provide early access to the vaccine for Australia’s Pacific neighbours and partners in Southeast Asia.
Andrews said Australia’s manufacturing capability puts the country in good stead to deliver a vaccine “as quickly as possible”.
“Through a coordinated approach and strategic investments we can also improve our knowledge and strengthen our manufacturing capability to respond in the future.”
So it’s free for me. How much is the country spending on a vaccine?
Morrison said he hopes the vaccine will be ready by early 2021. The exact cost of the AstraZeneca agreement has not yet been disclosed.
However, American medical device company Becton Dickinson will receive $24.7 million to deliver the doses with 100 million needles and syringes.
University of Canberra professorial fellow Michelle Grattan said the ultimate cost of supplying and administering the vaccine will run into the “billions of dollars”.
Australia has invested $333 million in Covid-19 medicines, therapies and vaccines, with $256 million going towards vaccines.
Within that, the University of Queensland has received $5 million for its ‘molecular clamp’ Covid-19 vaccine, which is already undergoing trials.
“Today's a day of hope. Australia needs hope, the world needs hope,” Morrison said.
Morrison plans for the vaccine to be administered to 95 per cent of the population, with health risks the only
How much are drug companies charging for vaccines?
Morrison’s announcement on Wednesday comes after US pharmaceuticals company Moderna announced its coronavirus vaccine would be priced at US$50 - $60 (AU$69-$83). That’s at least US$11 more than Pfizer and BioNTech’s US$39 vaccine.
According to the Financial Times’ report, that price would apply to high income countries like the US.
Moderna later said that smaller doses of its experimental vaccine would be US$32-37 per dose.
Pfizer, Moderna and Merck & Co are among the companies planning to profit from the vaccine. However, other pharmaceutical companies like Johnson & Johnson have said they won’t be pricing their vaccines with a profit in mind.
AstraZeneca, which Australia has secured the deal with, has already agreed to supply the US with 300 million doses of the vaccine for US$1.2 billion, or US$4 per dose.
China National Pharmaceutical Group’s Sinopharm branch is working to develop a vaccine that would cost 1,000 yuan (AU$199) for two shots. Sinopharm has said its vaccine will be ready by the end of 2020 and is in late-stage testing in the United Arab Emirates.
"It will not be priced very high. It is expected to cost a few hundred yuan for a shot, and for two shots it should be less than 1,000 yuan," chairman Liu Jingzhen told the Guangming Daily newspaper.
According to the World Health Organisation, 168 potential vaccines are being pursued. That means billions of public and private investment dollars have been injected into the biotech industry.
Moderna has seen its shares rocket some 250 per cent while other smaller firms like Inovio have seen their share price increase 350 per cent and Novovax a staggering 3,500 per cent.
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