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Interview - Channel 7

19 May 2020

Jennifer Bechwati

Subject: Coronavirus vaccine, local manufacturing


Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews was interviewed by Channel 7.

Jennifer Bechwati: So, a brief outline of the vaccine run that you have planned?

Karen Andrews: So we are being very proactive as the Government and looking for the opportunities for us to scale-up to manufacture any vaccine that is developed for COVID-19. So clearly it’s probably a number of months away, we believe it’s probably going to be anywhere from 10 months, could be up to 15, and potentially could be beyond that before a vaccine is developed. But what we want to do is make sure that as soon as a vaccine becomes available we are in a position to manufacture that in Australia.

Jennifer Bechwati: Why is that important, why do we need to manufacture it here?

Karen Andrews: Because we’re pretty confident that once a vaccine is developed, there will be many Australians who’ll want to access that vaccine, so we want to make it available as soon as we possibly can. Clearly there will be a global scramble to be able to produce the vaccine, that’s why it’s important that we do the capability study now, look at what manufacturing capacity we’ve got here, how we could ramp it up. Now, we don’t know what that vaccine is going to look like, whether it’s going to be something that’s delivered by an injection, whether it’s going to be in tablet form, we don’t know at this point. So we’re broadly looking at what Australia’s capacity is and how we can ramp that up.

Jennifer Bechwati: Do you believe that we have the capability to do so?

Karen Andrews: Absolutely.

Jennifer Bechwati: Are there any shortcomings?

Karen Andrews: I have every confidence in Australia’s manufacturing capability, we have demonstrated that loud and clear during the COVID crisis so far. So yes, I’m very confident that we would be able to manufacture a vaccine here in Australia, what we need to do is look at that capability, look at the capacity now and then how we can ramp that up as and when required.

Jennifer Bechwati: Is there a risk not doing this, if other countries manufacture that we won’t be able to get the supply that we need?

Karen Andrews: Well there will be a global race on to manufacture the vaccine and it will probably be produced in a number of different countries. I’m interested in looking at what Australia’s capacity is, and what we can do to make sure the vaccine is as readily available here as is possible.

Jennifer Bechwati: You mentioned the vaccine could be available in 10 months at the earliest?

Karen Andrews: We believe that 10 to 15 months is probably the timeframe. Ten is going to be very fast for a vaccine because 10 years is often the timeframe that it takes to have a vaccine ready for production, so we are really pushing the timeframes as tightly as we can. But of course, there’s a range of different steps and processes that have to be adhered to, and we want to make sure that any vaccine does the job and clearly doesn’t cause any harm.

Jennifer Bechwati: If we were to develop the vaccine, what numbers are we looking at and how many would we use?

Karen Andrews: At this stage we’d be looking at what is the maximum we could produce, so I’m not going to put an upper level on it. Clearly if we can maximise the capacity beyond Australia’s needs then we will look at what we can do to support the global market for that as well.

There will be many countries that don’t have the manufacturing capability, so we will obviously look at any spare capacity that we have.

Jennifer Bechwati: And how confident are you that we’ll support this?

Karen Andrews: I’m very confident that we have the capacity here in Australia to produce the vaccine, we already produce for example, the flu vaccine here, so it really is looking at what our capability capacity is going to be to produce the COVID-19 vaccine as and when it’s developed.

Jennifer Bechwati: Thank you.