Daily US Times: Australia has confirmed it secured access to a promising coronavirus vaccine and will be able to offer free doses to its entire population of 25 million people.
It is being developed by the Oxford University and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said if clinical trials are successful, the deal with AstraZeneca would secure “early access for every Australian”.
He said it was likely that vaccinations would be mandatory.
The country has recorded 450 coronavirus deaths, most from an outbreak in Victoria state.
Victoria declared a state of disaster earlier this month and imposed strict lockdown measures after a surge in infections.
It still has more than 7,000 active cases, but in the past week, the number of new infections has declined.
Pledge to manufacture in Australia
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is one of five promising candidates to reach an advanced stage of clinical trials, with countries across the world seeking to secure supplies for their own populations.
Mr Morrison said: “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.”
The cost of supplying the vaccine to the whole population has not yet been fixed. It has also separately signed a deal worth A$25m (£13.5m; $18m) with Becton Dickinson, an American pharmaceutical company, to supply 100 million syringes and needles.
The deal with AstraZeneca is the country’s first such vaccine agreement.
Mr Morrison said if trials were successful, he hoped it would be available early next year. Manufacturing it would require an additional few months.
Would it be mandatory to take vaccine?
Australian Prime Minister said he expected a successful vaccine would be “as mandatory as you could possibly make it”, though his government was still forming its policy.
He told radio station 3AW: “There are always exemptions for any vaccine on medical grounds, but that should be the only basis.”
“We are talking about a pandemic that has destroyed the global economy and taken the lives of hundreds of thousands all around the world, and over 430 Australians here.”
He said the country would aim for 95% of the population to be vaccinated.
The vaccine of the Oxford University, which has been considered a frontrunner in the global race for a vaccine, has entered its third phase of trials, where it is tested on thousands of volunteers to confirm its effectiveness.
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