Interview with Michael Usher, Channel 7's Sunrise program

Michael Usher
mRNA vaccine manufacturing

MICHAEL USHER: A new manufacturing facility will be built in Australia to produce mRNA vaccines. It will help ensure we're better prepared for future pandemics, as well as seasonal health issues like the flu. The Federal Government's inked the deal with the Victorian Government and vaccine manufacturer Moderna. The facility will be able to produce 100 million jabs every year, starting from 2024. It's a big announcement, and for more we are joined by Industry Minister, Angus Taylor, in the studio. Angus, good morning to you. Thanks for being here. This is going to make a big difference to have this sort of facility on home soil. Tell us about it.

ANGUS TAYLOR: That's absolutely right. We already have vaccine manufacturing here in Australia, up to 25 million have been produced but, this gives us mRNA capability, which has enormous flexibility to deal with future pandemics, COVID as it currently is, but also flu, flu vaccines and potentially other diseases as well. It's very flexible technology, it's leading edge. Australia will be at the forefront in dealing with this disease but also, it'll put us in a position where we are a manufacturer of our own vaccines and in control of our own destiny.

MICHAEL USHER: Think that's an interesting step, but currently we import all of this.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, we are manufacturing traditional vaccines now.


ANGUS TAYLOR: But this will put us into mRNA, and that puts, puts us in a very strong position to deal with future pandemics.

MICHAEL USHER: What are the next steps then? Is there a big start-up? Is there a big involvement here to get it off and going?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, that's right. So, working closely with the Victorian Government, who are involved as well. We'll be getting the manufacturing moving as quickly as we possibly can - up and running by 2024 and that, as I say, will put us in a position where we can deal with future pandemics.

MICHAEL USHER: Not that we want one to come along, but if we get another pandemic, and this is underway, it means that we've got all of that facility on home soil to produce quickly. Do we keep a store of vaccines, or do we react quickly to what might come in the future? 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, this is, this is modern manufacturing that can do 100 million vaccines a year. So, it's very flexible. Of course, there'll be some storage but, but the focus here is on adapting very fast, not just to COVID, but also flu vaccines and potentially other diseases.

MICHAEL USHER: Just wondering then, if we're manufacturing this on this scale, does that make us a significant regional presence for this?


MICHAEL USHER: And being able to help? We've got a lot of countries in our region that don't do very well in this way at all? Can we help out there?

ANGUS TAYLOR: It absolutely does. There's no mRNA manufacturing in the Asian region. Outside of Singapore this is the only committed one, so it will be important and that gives us an opportunity to work with our neighbouring countries to provide them with vaccines as well.

MICHAEL USHER: What's this costing taxpayers?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, it's commercial in confidence, but it's a significant commitment - there's no doubt about that - as these things always are, and they have been through the pandemic but it's a significant commitment because it's important. It's important to keep Australians healthy and to have control over our own destiny.

MICHAEL USHER: Alright. You'll be with the PM and the Victorian Premier announcing all this, this morning. Angus, thanks for being here.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks, Mike.