Ramped-up production to help govt keep vaccine promise

Boosting local production of AstraZeneca vaccine may be the key to salvaging the federal government’s target of fully dosing all Australians against COVID-19 by October.

Mar 15, 2021, updated Mar 15, 2021
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Reporting to parliament, Health secretary Brendan Murphy raised doubts about the deadline last week.

However he now says if more AstraZeneca doses can be made available, the end of October might still be achievable.

The first AstraZeneca batch being produced in Australia is expected to be available the week after next but moves are afoot for biotech company CSL to increase output.

It’s estimated Australia is currently 3.1 million shots short of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the initial phases of the rollout.

“If we get extra AstraZeneca production from CSL, I imagine all Australians will potentially have received it by the end of October,” Professor Murphy told reporters in Sydney on Sunday.

Scott Morrison seemed to echo the comments, saying the critical or “swing” factor in controlling the pace of the vaccination program lay in its supply and production.

The prime minister said Health Minister Greg Hunt and Prof Murphy would be providing regular updates on the vaccine rollout from Monday week.

The government has meanwhile announced it will provide a further $1.1 billion to extend the national COVID-19 health response until the end of the year.

This comes on top of the $22 billion already spent, including more than $6 billion to support the virus vaccine rollout.

“Australia’s suppression strategy has been extremely successful to date, particularly when compared with the devastation caused by the virus in many places overseas,” Mr Morrison said.

“Australia’s remarkable performance in saving lives is evident – we have the second lowest case rate and third lowest mortality rate amongst countries in the OECD.”

But Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said Australia was not in a better position than the rest of the world with regard to the vaccine rollout.

He said the government announced four million people were to get their first jab by the end of this month but with just over two weeks to go, only about 150,000 people have been vaccinated.

“We are way way short,” he told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda.

“We had Scott Morrison in his usual way say that black is white and suggest that he hadn’t really meant that everyone would be vaccinated by October when they have said they would on multiple occasions.”

The government is also ramping up its campaign against misinformation on vaccines with a new website called Is it true. Mr Morrison says it will “sort the fact from the fiction”.

The prime minister along with Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly received his second Pfizer jab on Sunday.

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