Topics: COVID-19 vaccine agreement
Ross Stevenson: Every Australian will receive a free coronavirus vaccine if a world leading trial succeeds after the Federal Government has struck a deal to secure 25 million of them. And we’ve got Karen Andrews, the Federal Industry, Science, and Technology Minister. Now Minister, is this like the government buying a cheque printing facility in case we win Powerball?
Karen Andrews: That’s an interesting way to put it, but no it’s not. This is actually a key part of a very considered strategy by the government. But look, let’s be clear about this. We’re positioning ourselves to be in the best possible place if and when a vaccine becomes available. We have a high level of confidence in the vaccine that’s being developed by Oxford University, so we are keen to position ourselves well to be able to access that. But vaccines take a long time to develop – the Gardasil vaccine actually took about 15 years to develop. So we’re being calm, methodical in how we’re going about this to make sure that we have everything in place that we need.
Russel Howcroft: Minister, tell us what is the status of the Oxford University trial right now?
Karen Andrews: Okay. So it’s heading into say Phase 3 trials – so that’s where they’re testing somewhere between say 30,000 and 50,000 people. So they’re very significant trials, and what they’re specifically looking for out of that trial is effectively the outliers, the unusual results that you would need to pick up through a very broad population test – that’s when we have a very clear picture whether or not this vaccine is going to work.
Ross Stevenson: I remember reading something – and I’ve gone back and checked it, I thought it was March, but it was April of this year – April 12 Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at the Oxford University, told The Times of London she was 80 per cent confident that the vaccine would work. She was 80 per cent confident back in April.
Karen Andrews: Yeah.
Ross Stevenson: That’s fantastic.
Karen Andrews: Yes. And look there is a high level of confidence in this – and it’s right to be optimistic, but we also need to proceed with caution as well, because 80 per cent plus of vaccines fall over, are unsuccessful. That’s why we’ve taken a very broad brush approach, because we need to make sure that we’ve got a number of irons in the fire. We believe that the University of Oxford vaccine is a leading candidate at the moment and we’re preparing for that.
Russel Howcroft: Minister, if it is successful, will the vaccine be made here?
Ross Stevenson: Yeah, that’s the question I was going to ask. If they develop a vaccine, do they make 25 million of them, put them in a shipping container, and ship them out here? Or do they email us the recipe?
Karen Andrews: Well, we’re working very hard to look at our manufacturing capacity. Our intention is that we will manufacture here. So we’re working very closely with the likes of CSL, they already produce the flu vaccine – they have capability, they have capacity to produce a vaccine, but it depends very much on what the form of that vaccine is going to be. So we’re working with them, we’re working with as many producers as we can here in Australia. Ideally we will be making the vaccine here in Australia, and that’s what my aim is.
Ross Stevenson: Okay. Have you budgeted on the number of people who will refuse it? Because the last stat I saw from the United States was that 35 per cent of people would refuse to take in if offered. Surely it would be nowhere near that level here?
Karen Andrews: Look, there are various views on the take up of a vaccine as well, people need to be confident in the vaccine that they’re receiving. So that’s part of the work that we need to do, the vaccines need to be proven. And I understand that people want to know exactly how efficient a vaccine is going to be, the safety of the vaccine, and we have a very, very rigid process here in Australia to prove that vaccine. So-
Ross Stevenson:[Interrupts] Just get a person in a white coat to tell me I should take it and I’ll take it.
Russel Howcroft: Yeah, same.
Karen Andrews: I’m sure there will be plenty of those available to assist.
Ross Stevenson: Minister, it sounds like maybe we’re on the road to somewhere. Minister, thanks for talking to us.
Karen Andrews: It’s a pleasure. Take care.
Ross Stevenson: Karen Andrews, Federal Industry, Science and Technology Minister.