Aussies first in line for COVID-19 vaccine
Australians will skip the queue for free COVID-19 shots after the Queensland Government clinched a deal to stockpile 100 million vials of any vaccine developed by the University of Queensland.
As UQ researchers lead the global race for a lifesaving vaccine, with test jabs on volunteers in clinical trials this month, The Sunday-Mail can reveal that enough doses will be set aside for every Australian if a vaccine is produced next year.
Australian drug giant CSL has agreed to manufacture the UQ vaccine, which uses a pioneering "molecular clamp'' technology to lock part of the deadly virus into a shape the immune system can easily detect and destroy.
State Innovation Minister Kate Jones yesterday revealed that Queensland had clinched the Aussies-first deal, as a hard-won condition in the contract handing UQ $10 million in taxpayer funding to fast-track research and production of the vaccine.
The vaccine would be offered free to the public.
"Our priority is to stop COVID-19 in its tracks,'' Ms Jones told The Sunday-Mail.
"As part of our commitment - and should the vaccine prove successful - we have secured 100 million vials that will be available to Queensland, Australia, New Zealand and our Pacific neighbours.''
CSL stands to reap billions of dollars in profits by selling a successful UQ vaccine worldwide, although UQ has only granted CSL the manufacturing rights for the current COVID-19 pandemic.
UQ retains the intellectual property rights but a university spokesman said "UQ does not expect to make a financial return'' from the molecular clamp technology.
The Brisbane university refused to reveal if its world-class researchers would pocket any royalties from their breakthrough discovery.
UQ received $14 million in research funding from CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, based in Norway.
CSL and CEPI will share the cost of developing a vaccine.
"If the vaccine is successful the allocation of doses will be proportionate to their relative contribution to the overall costs,'' CSL, CEPI and UQ said in a joint statement prepared for The Sunday-Mail.
"CEPI's dose allocation will be procured and distributed through the COVAX facility, which will make vaccines available globally through an equitable allocation system.
"CSL's dose allocation will be used, at a minimum, to support its longstanding biosecurity commitment to the Australian community as well as other key groups, such as its regional neighbours.
"Pricing will be a matter for discussion between CSL and the institutions and governments procuring the vaccine.''
A spokesman for Ms Jones said the 100 million doses would be provided to the State Government free of charge.
But Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt yesterday said the details were still being worked out.
"Australians will have priority access to a COVID-19 vaccine,'' a spokesman for Mr Hunt told The Sunday-Mail.
"We expect to have sufficient vaccine for the entire Australian population as part of the CSL agreement.
"As the vaccine is still being developed, negotiations for a formal supply agreement are still ongoing."
The federal government contributed $5 million to the UQ research.