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Interview with Sunrise

7 September 2020

Natalie Barr

Subject: COVID-19 vaccines


Natalie Barr: Well the Government has struck two coronavirus vaccine deals. They'll give Australia access to potential treatments from both the University of Queensland and Oxford University. Both vaccines are in advanced stages of testing. The agreements are worth $1.7 billion, and would secure around 85 million doses which would be manufactured almost entirely out of Melbourne. Both vaccines need to be proven to be safe and effective. Joining me now is Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews. Morning to you. No guarantees a successful vaccine will be found. Why has the Government backed these particular vaccine trials?

Karen Andrews: Well good morning, Nat. The reason that the Government has backed these two vaccines is that both are in reasonably advanced stages of testing. The Oxford vaccine is more advanced. Both of them are showing promise, so we're getting ready so that Australia will be in the best possible position should either or both of those vaccines prove to be safe and effective.

Natalie Barr: Yeah. So speaking of the Oxford vaccine, the Prime Minister came on Sunrise a few weeks ago to tell us that they had done- you’d done deal a with Oxford University. So what’s different about today's announcement?

Karen Andrews: So it was a letter of intent that was signed which was the first stages of what the agreement was going to be. There were some things that needed to be finalised in relation to the amount of production that was going to happen in Australia - that’s all been signed off now. So the deal is ready to go, so by early next year, provided that the Oxford vaccine has been proven to be safe and to be effective, we will start to have those doses arriving in Australia and move to manufacturing.

Natalie Barr: Oh, so it was only a letter of intent. I thought that Greg Hunt had said it was actually a signed deal. So must have been some misunderstanding. The vaccines would be produced Melbourne-based CSL. How will this boost the local manufacturing industry? 

Karen Andrews: Well, it’s really great news for our growing medical technology sector. So CSL does already produce vaccines, most notably the flu vaccine, but that’s not the only one. So what this will do is increase their capacity and potentially they will be world leading in terms of producing the COVID-19 vaccine. So it’s a great opportunity and of course, CSL will be working and continuing to work closely with CSIRO. CSIRO’s been involved in the testing of vaccines and have already done a lot of work. They’re helping with the scale up of, particularly the UQ vaccine. So it will then [indistinct] be a partnership. And this is what you get when you do have industry and researchers working very closely together, a very good outcome. And of course, Australia's medical technology sector is very well regarded internationally and this is going to further strengthen their credentials.

Natalie Barr: Okay. Karen Andrews, thanks for your time this morning.

Karen Andrews: Pleasure