A Queensland COVID-19 vaccine could be available in Australia around July 2021.
The University of Queensland trials are ahead of schedule and the vaccine is proving to be safe and producing virus-neutralising antibodies.
Researchers will now move for regulatory approval to commence phase three clinical trials before the end of the year.
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Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, who visited the UQ laboratory on Friday, said it was an extraordinary development.
“I can announce that CSL has completed the manufacturing of this vaccine for the phase three clinical trials and is already in a position to commence,” Minister Hunt said.
“That may come of the positive surprise to many people here in Australia and around the world but what it shows is that we are ahead of schedule.
“It means that this vaccine will potentially be available, subject to the results of those trails, for delivery to Australians early in the third quarter of 2021.
“Our national goal is to ensure that all Australians who seek to be vaccinated are vaccinated by the end of 2021.”
The Health Minister said he was very impressed by the progress being made towards finding a vaccine here in Australia.
“The initial data is very clear, that the vaccine is proving to be safe,” he said.
“That is particularly so in the elderly, and that is an especially important outcome, given the global vulnerability to elderly around the world from COVID-19.”
The federal government already has a deal in place with the University of Queensland for 51 million unites of the vaccine, should it be proved safe and effective.
Similar deals are in place with AstraZeneca and Oxford University for 33.8 million units, with Novak for 40 million units and with Pfizer for 10 million units of their respective vaccines.
Pfizer announced earlier this week its vaccine was proving to be 90 per cent effective and could possibly be available early in 2021.
Exactly how and when successful vaccines will be rolled out remains up in the air, with National Cabinet to discuss a strategy at a meeting on Friday.
“There was a first stage which was put out previously, today is the detailed, fully considered national strategy.. then there is a third implementation phase which will be out before Christmas,” Minister Hunt said.
Asked whether a widespread vaccine would lead to tangible changes in our way of life, Minister Hunt remained optimistic.
“The more Australians that are vaccinated, the greater the internal freedoms with regards to distancing and restaurants and proximity and all of those rules that have made life difficult and challenging,” he said.
“They have been life-saving, but they have been difficult and challenging for families and small business owners.”
He also said it would lead to a drastic change in how we travel.
“What vaccination does is it opens up the possibility of travel for Australians, so they can travel safely, they can return safely.
“It reduces the need for hotel quarantining, if somebody has been vaccinated. And these are really profound differences.”
“Of course one of our challenges is that even if we are fully vaccinated, as a nation, we will still have people coming from overseas and the world which have very high caseloads.
“What we would like to see is that we have Australians that are vaccinated, if they are looking to return without hotel quarantining, otherwise they would be subject to hotel quarantining in order to protect the rest of the population, but would also want people coming into be clear that either they were vaccinated, or they will have to go through hotel quarantining.
“We have opened a travel bubble with New Zealand. We are looking at opening travel bubbles with other low risk countries.
“It will be a progressive opening through the course of 2021.
“In an ideal world, if the vaccination strategy is completed, as we anticipate, then by the end of 2021, we will be very close to, let me put it this way, widespread international travel.”