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Photo: University of Oxford

PM details $1.7b deal for COVID-19 vaccines

Australians will get free access to a COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 under a $1.7 billion supply and production agreement between government and pharmaceutical companies.

Under the agreement, the University of Oxford-AstraZeneca and the University of Queensland-CSL will provide more than 84.8 million vaccine doses for the Australian population, almost entirely manufactured in Melbourne.

Labor was critical of the earlier promises by the government, saying they did not amount to a fully-fledged agreement that Australians could rely on.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australians could get access to 3.8 million doses of the Oxford vaccine as early as January and February 2021.

"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," Morrison said.

"There are no guarantees that these vaccines will prove successful. However, the agreement puts Australia at the top of the queue, if our medical experts give the vaccines the green light."

CSL said the number of vaccines ordered by the government is based on a two-dose per person regime.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said it would not be mandatory but the government wanted to see as broad coverage of the population as possible.

Both agreements will also allow for doses to be provided to Australia's partner countries in the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is in the third phase of trials and is considered one of the best hopes in the world, with regulatory approval expected to be sought shortly.

UQ has recently announced that pre-clinical testing showed the vaccine is promising and already effective in animal models.

Experts believe the vaccination of at least two-thirds of the population will be required to have a chance of halting the spread of COVID-19.

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