The government announced the deal on Dec. 14 as part of its strategy to maintain the country's sovereign capability, especially amidst the global supply chain issues, and for Australia to become a key vaccine supply hub in the region. The second closest vaccine manufacturing facility of this scale is located in Singapore.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: "The new mRNA manufacturing facility in Victoria will produce respiratory vaccines for potential future pandemics and seasonal health issues such as the common flu, protecting lives and livelihoods."
The facility is expected to be ready by 2024 and is expected to produce 25 million vaccines per year, with the capacity to scale up the number to 100 million. The arrival of the facility on Australian shores is also expected to create a thousand new jobs: 500 during construction and another 500 ongoing roles as long as the government deems the COVID vaccinations necessary. (Related: Australia says covid shots will be FOREVER... every 6 to 12 months until you die.)
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said that the facility is especially important to the country's research and development landscape, adding that this investment will mean world-leading clinical trials, a strong workforce and numerous opportunities through supply chain activities that could move Australia's economy forward.
The amount invested into the COVID-19 vaccines has allowed pharmaceutical firms like Moderna and Pfizer to accelerate the development of new vaccine platforms such as mRNA technology. Researchers at Melbourne Monash University are also hoping to fine-tune the first mRNA vaccine by 2022.
Nikolai Petrovsky, director of endocrinology at Flinders Medical Center, said that mRNA and viral vector technologies have been rushed, which may have contributed to adverse reactions issues. "I think there was early leadership by the University of Oxford [AstraZeneca] with the adenovirus viral vector being put into human trials very quickly, you saw that similarly with Moderna and its mRNA approach," he said.
"This created a follow the leader-type mentality with [manufacturers] Sputnik and Johnson & Johnson copying the Oxford approach and Pfizer following Moderna with the mRNA approach."
Dr. Omar Korshid, president of the Australian Medical Association said that the facility would be a major addition to the global vaccine stocks, not just for the current pandemic.
Morrison did not specify the financial agreement of the deal, but Australian media reported it could be worth around A$2 billion ($1.43 billion). Moderna also said in October that it was planning to invest up to $500 million to build a factory in Africa to make up to 500 million doses of mRNA vaccines each year, including its COVID shot.
South Korea, which also has a deal with Moderna to provide bottling work for the firm's vaccine, is also seeking to attract the vaccine makers to start local production.
The announcement by Moderna was made amid the rising COVID cases in Sydney since the four-month lockdown ended in early October. Despite the surge in infections, officials said that the planned easing of restrictions will proceed as they urge people to get booster shots.
Australia has so far inoculated around 90 percent of its population above the age of 16 with two doses and a shortened wait time for a booster shot upon the emergence of the omicron cases.
"We're not letting omicron take us back," Morrison said. "We've decided as a country to live with this virus and Australians have worked so hard for that. Australia can now open up. This Christmas we're about to have is a gift Australians have given to themselves by the way they've worked together with the settings that we've put in place."
While Morrison conceded that the Australian Coalition made mistakes during the pandemic, he said that they managed to overcome them. "When you're in a crisis, it's not unusual to have setbacks, [but] the proof of managing a crisis is being able to overcome them, and we did overcome."
The country has recorded around 232,700 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic started, with 2,113 deaths so far.
Watch the video below to learn more about the ingredients that can be found in COVID-19 vaccines.
Read more at Pandemic.news.