Australia is now at the front of the queue to access coronavirus vaccines, when they become available, after joining a global pool backed by the World Health Organisation.
The COVID-19 facility known as COVAX gives Australia access to a large portfolio of vaccine candidates and manufacturers across the world.
Australia has committed an initial $123.2 million to be part of the facility’s purchasing mechanism, making it eligible to receive offers to buy vaccines when they become available.
This opens up supply options in addition to Australia’s current vaccine supply agreements with Oxford University/AstraZeneca and the University of Queensland/CSL.
“Whoever finds a COVID-19 vaccine must share it,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Australia signing up to the COVAX facility is an important part of our commitment to this principle.
“We’re giving Australians the best chance of accessing a safe and effective vaccine, but also our neighbours in the Pacific and Southeast Asia, and partners overseas.”
The COVAX facility was established by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance as part of an international vaccine partnership with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the WHO and other organisations.
It aims to ensure equitable access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines by facilitating purchases, funding access for developing countries and allowing countries to trade or donate doses.
This is Australia’s second commitment to the COVAX facility after it donated $80 million in August to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment to provide doses to developing countries.
Eighty countries, including Australia, have joined the COVAX Facility and a further 92 countries are eligible to access vaccines through the Advance Market Commitment.
In addition to individual country allocations, 10 per cent of manufactured doses will be retained by the COVAX facility to address sporadic outbreaks and for humanitarian use.