The Morrison government is “moving quickly” to start making mRNA vaccines locally in a bid to get half a million Australians vaccinated every week.
After previously dismissing the emerging technology as mere “science fiction”, the prime minister said he has approached the market for expressions of interest in manufacturing mRNA vaccines in Australia.
“We’ve called for those proposals to come forward to find out exactly what is needed from those proponents to see these facilities and capabilities being established here in Australia,” Scott Morrison told reporters on Friday.
“That will be done as a partnership between industry and government.”
The mRNA vaccines teach cells how to make a protein to trigger an immune response. Moderna and Pfizer are both leading examples.
The mRNA technology has the potential to treat many other conditions including cancer and cardiovascular disease. But Australia does not have the domestic capacity to manufacture such a jab.
Australia has been far slower than others to immunise its population, with data analyst Anthony Macali telling The New Daily the number of Australians fully vaccinated against COVID-19 could be as low as 400,000.
Mr Morrison said the purpose of establishing mRNA production capability in Australia was not just to deliver coronavirus vaccines.
“What we’ve seen with the mRNA vaccines is they are the new technology, they are the new way of doing vaccines around the world,” he said.
“Eighteen months ago, apart from some trial treatments in HIV, this was largely science fiction.”
He said the government would move quickly to establish the manufacturing plants.
“Not just for now but for the long term and for many other vaccines that will be done through mRNA, not just COVID. This is a long-term plan with short- and medium-term benefits.”
Push to get older Australians vaccinated
Mr Morrison is urging older Australians to get a vaccine, telling younger people to have the conversation with relatives.
“I am encouraging older Australians, particularly those over 70 to go and get their vaccination this week,” he said.
“We are likely to see our first half-million weeks of vaccinations. Half a million. We may well see 100,000 a day today.
“By early next week we will have vaccinated more than half the over-70s population in Australia.”
The Prime Minister said the priority remained for older Australians to get vaccinated as one of the most vulnerable age groups.
“And very soon we will have fully completed the vaccination of all those in residential aged care facilities,” he said.
“Now, this is important, because these are our most vulnerable populations. As we saw in the Victorian second wave, they are the Australians who are most at risk. I am encouraging, if you are over 70 and you have had your vaccine, which is almost half right now, thank you for doing that.”
Mr Morrison would not be drawn on concerns that Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was sending the wrong signals by being the only premier over 50 not to be vaccinated.
Queensland’s Chief Medical Officer Jeannette Young was reported to be planning to get the Pfizer jab.
There are fears complacency is creeping into some parts of the community and concerns some older Australians are reluctant to get the AstraZeneca jab because of its link to a small number of rare blood clots.
Cabinet minister Peter Dutton believes the way such cases are being reported could be part of the reason people are choosing to wait for alternative vaccines such as Moderna and Pfizer to arrive later this year.
Mr Dutton said the 24 cases out of 2.1 million doses of AstraZeneca administered in Australia needed to be put in perspective.
“These things happen in a normal season where there’s an adverse reaction to someone getting a vaccination, whether it’s an adult, someone getting the flu vaccination each year, or if it’s a child,” he told Nine.