Australia could be world leader in vaccine production
A promising vaccine tipped as a frontrunner to protect the world from COVID-19 in the long-term may be produced on Australian shores, as medical experts vow to use every available option to deliver safe and effective jabs.
After walking away from University of Queensland's protein-based vaccine, the federal Government is now in talks to domestically produce the Novavax candidate - which uses similar technology - if trials prove it is effective.
The Daily Telegraph understands Melbourne-based manufacturer CSL has potential capacity to produce a large volume of the 51 million doses Australia has secured so far under a purchase agreement with Novavax.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly said the current Novavax Phase Three trial involving 30,000 participants in the US was showing a "very strong performance" much "quicker" than expected.
It followed a combined Phase 1 and 2 trial which found recipients produced more antibodies than people who had recovered from severe COVID-19.
"I have a very strong feeling that Novavax, or one of the other protein vaccines will be the long-term option for vaccination for the world," Prof Kelly said.
"We're likely to get the full dossier for data in relation to that vaccine before the middle of the year.
"So that would be another option later in the year for us, hopefully."
Prof Kelly said protein vaccines took longer to manufacture, but had a strong record of long-term protection which was an unknown factor in the groundbreaking mRNA vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna.
When Australia first signed the Novavax vaccine agreement it was expected the doses would be manufactured in the US or Europe, but producing the jab locally would further strengthen the supply chain.
Prof Kelly on Wednesday accused some of his colleagues in the medical community of "selective" use of data, as several called for the AstraZeneca vaccine to be abandoned due to an interim study showing 62 per cent efficacy against infection in some cases.
"I would urge people looking at this to look at the full information, not just pick one figure from that study," he said. "The pooled (efficacy) result was 70 per cent. In one group, it was 90 per cent."
Despite not reaching the same efficacy rate as Pfizer, which has shown to prevent infection in 95 per cent of cases, the AstraZeneca still critically prevents all cases of severe illness, with no hospitalisations among any trial recipients.
Epidemiologist and co-chair of the Australian Technical Group on Immunisation Professor Allen Cheng said the country should use "all available vaccines that prevent COVID" - even if they did not reduce transmission "as much as we'd like".
"The choice we have isn't whether to use one vaccine or the other," he said. "Our choice is whether to offer everything we have now to protect as many people as we can, or to leave some effective vaccines in the warehouse."
Prof Cheng said the Pfizer vaccine, of which Australia only has 10 million doses, looked "about as good as it gets".
"The (AstraZeneca) vaccine may not be as good … but this can be rolled out more quickly," he said.
Originally published as Australia could be world leader in vaccine production