Home | News | Hunt confirms ‘high interest’ in producing mRNA vaccines onshore
Employees in cleanroom suits test the procedures for the manufacturing of the messenger RNA (mRNA) for the COVID-19 vaccine at the new manufacturing site of German company BioNTech in March. Picture: Thomas Lohnes/AFP

Hunt confirms ‘high interest’ in producing mRNA vaccines onshore

Australia is interested in producing a cutting-edge form of COVID-19 vaccine onshore, but the Health Minister warns it could take the “best part of a year” for manufacturing to begin.

Greg Hunt says the federal government has a “very high interest” in producing mRNA vaccines, potentially including the Pfizer and Moderna jabs, in Australia as it looks to rescue its error-ridden rollout.

It had planned for the AstraZeneca vaccine to make up the bulk of its rollout, with drug manufacturer CSL to produce 50 million doses in Melbourne.

But that plan was thrown into disarray earlier this month when authorities warned against its use in people aged under 50 when possible, making the Pfizer vaccine Australia’s preferred jab for 11.2 million recipients.

Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed on Sunday the government saw onshore mRNA production as the “next phase”, but warned the process would 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.

“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.”

Australia has ordered a total of 40 million Pfizer doses to arrive by the end of the year, but a total reliance on shipments from overseas has seen its plans dented by supply issues in the European Union.

The AstraZeneca developments saw the federal government abandon all vaccination timetables, having aimed to vaccinate the entire adult population by October.

But Labor health spokesperson Mark Butler said Prime Minister Scott Morrison must outline a “clear plan” after talks with state and territory leaders.

“He can’t simply now walk away from a plan,” he said on Sunday.

“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.”

Butler accused the prime minister of “bungling” the rollout, saying the government was over-reliant on the AstraZeneca vaccine and doses sourced from overseas.

“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,” he said.

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