The federal government has nailed down two possible vaccine sources with supply and production agreements with pharmaceutical companies worth $1.7 billion.
The agreements mean the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca and the University of Queensland/CSL would provide more than 84.8 million vaccine doses, almost entirely manufactured in Melbourne.
The success of either vaccine still has to be demonstrated, but trials are encouraging.
If all goes well, there would be access to 3.8 million doses of the University of Oxford vaccine in January and February.
The government promises a vaccine would be made available free.
Earlier it announced it had signed a letter of intent for the Oxford vaccine.
Scott Morrison said there were “no guarantees” these vaccines would prove successful. “However the agreement puts Australia at the top of the queue, if our medical experts give the vaccines the green light.”
“By securing the production and supply agreements, Australians will be among the first in the world to receive a safe and effective vaccine, should it pass late stage testing,” he said.
The government is also exploring other promising vaccines which are being developed and it may invest further.
If successful, the Oxford vaccines would be available from the start of next year, and the UQ ones from mid year. There would be 33.8 million doses of the Oxford vaccine and 51 million of the UQ one.
More than 95% of doses would be manufactured in Australia.
Each person would have a dose of one vaccine followed by a second dose of the same one within a few weeks. First to get the vaccine would be people most at risk of COVID and health workers.
The government said the agreements it had secured allowed for more orders to be negotiated and for doses to be donated or on-sold, without mark-ups, to other countries or international organisations. Morrison has stressed Australia wants to help Pacific countries and other regional neighbours get early access.
Late stage phase 3 trials are underway for the Oxford vaccine. Phase 1 clinical trials for the UQ vaccine began in mid-July in Brisbane. If this is successful, CSL will take responsibility for the Phase 2b/3 clinical trial, expected to begin late this year.
The government would run a strong campaign to encourage people to be vaccinated, but this would not be compulsory.