COVID-19 vaccine: Australia wants to manufacture mRNA jabs as roll-out derails

Australia's vaccine production could potentially include producing Pfizer and Moderna shots.
Australia's vaccine production could potentially include producing Pfizer and Moderna shots. Photo credit: Getty Images

Australia is looking to make mRNA COVID-19 vaccines onshore but their Health Minister is warning it could take the "best part of a year" for production to start. 

Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed on Sunday the Australian government has a "very high interest" in producing mRNA vaccines, which could include Pfizer or Moderna, on home soil.

The announcement comes as the country faces hurdles in their current vaccine roll-out, reports

Plans for 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to be made in Melbourne by drug manufacturer CSL have been derailed after authorities warned against its use in people under 50. 

The Pfizer vaccine is now the preferred vaccine for 11.2 million Australians who are under the age of 50, but its arrival into the country has been plagued by supply issues.

Hunt said the next step in turning around the flawed vaccine programme is to look into Australian vaccine production which will take time.

"We know we can do this as a country. I won't put an exact timeframe [on it], but the companies we've been speaking to have said that they would expect it would take the best part of a year," he said according to 

"Some may be able to do earlier, some may take longer because of the commercial disclosure requirements… We're talking widely, and there is very high interest in mRNA capability in Australia."

While 40 million Pfizer vaccines have been ordered to arrive in the country before the end of the year, supply issues have led to the European Union blocking shipments. 

A plan to vaccinate the entire adult population before October has since been abandoned and politicians are calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to come up with a plan. 

"Scott Morrison must outline a clear plan to replace his current failed one that has targets, that has timelines, that has milestones that allow Australians and Australian businesses to plan for the future," Labor health spokesperson Mark Butler said at a Cabinet meeting on Monday. 

"We're only getting a very small amount of supplies from Pfizer and still not enough from AstraZeneca because Scott Morrison did not negotiate deals quickly enough, and he did not negotiate enough deals."

New Zealand has secured 10 million Pfizer vaccines, enough to vaccinate every Kiwi, which are expected to arrive during the second half of 2021. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the decision to make Pfizer New Zealand's primary vaccine provider, was based on the fact the Pfizer vaccine has been shown to be about 95 percent effective at preventing symptomatic infection.