Hunt talks Omicron with vax makers

By Megan Brodie 2 years ago | In Vaccines
  • 2 years ago

3 December 2021

Health Minister Greg Hunt has held talks this week with vaccine manufacturers to determine whether the vaccines Australia has ordered will cover the Omicron variant that emerged at the end of November.

“I’ve spoken with Moderna, Pfizer, Novavax, this week myself, and the situation at the moment is we believe that there will be good protection,” Hunt told journalists.

“We want everybody to have their primary vaccinations, which is the first and the second dose, and if you’re due for the booster, do not delay. Please come forward. We’re well over 470,000 boosters and 92.6 per cent of first vaccinations around the country and if there are variant-related vaccines that are required, we’re in a position to do that.

“We’ve already spoken with both Pfizer and Moderna about those, and I was speaking with Novavax yesterday, and that’s making very good progress through its medical regulator or TGA assessment in Australia. So, we’re well prepared. We’ve got deep stocks of vaccines – a capacity to have access to the evolving vaccines in the same way that the flu vaccine evolves.”

The Federal Government said earlier this week it was continuing talks with Moderna and CSL after its long-awaited announcement about which company it would work with for onshore manufacturing failed to materialise, and as Victoria produced the country’s first mRNA vaccine candidate.

In response to a question from Labor in Parliament, the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, said discussions had been “progressing strongly” with both companies in relation to manufacturing mRNA vaccines in Australia.

“This is not a capability that other countries have other than those who had it prior to the commencement of the pandemic,” he said. “We’re looking forward to those negotiations to now proceed to the next level.

“I’ve been having constructive discussions with Premiers about the support they can provide also for this facility. This is an important capability, not just in relation to Covid vaccines for which Australia is well supplied and particularly in relation to booster shots, but the role that mRNA vaccines can play into the future.”

Industry Minister Angus Taylor said he had held discussions with Moderna Australia Head Michael Azrak, and the global Chief Executive of Moderna, while also approaching the market to ask what support companies would require from Government.

“We’re working through that process thoroughly,” Taylor said. “This is an important part of ensuring that we can control our own destiny.”

It comes as Victorian scientists and manufacturers created Australia’s first mRNA COVID-19 vaccine candidate and mRNA drug product, enabling clinical trials to begin in the new year.

Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy Jaala Pulford announced on Tuesday 450 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine candidate had been produced in Boronia, enabling 150 people to take part in Phase 1 clinical trials run by the Doherty Institute, with results expected late 2022.

The vaccine was funded with $5 million from the Victorian Government, with dedicated equipment shipped to manufacturer IDT Australia from Canada. The machine processed nanoparticles into final liquid drug form, sterilised the product and filled vials with mRNA vaccine.

The project has been led by mRNA Victoria in partnership with Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS), the Doherty Institute and IDT Australia. mRNA Victoria was established to address the Commonwealth’s Approach to Market (ATM) on mRNA manufacturing capability.

“This is a major milestone in Australia’s ability to manufacture home-grown COVID-19 mRNA vaccines and we are excited to commence Phase 1 clinical trials of this candidate, along with the protein vaccine candidate developed by the Doherty Institute, in the coming months,” Doherty Institute Head of Vaccine and Immunisation Research Group, Professor Terry Nolan, said.

“We believe this product will be the first locally developed mRNA COVID-19 vaccine candidate and the first locally manufactured cGMP mRNA drug product,” added IDT Australia CEO Dr David Sparling.

©MedNews 2021

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