Australia signs deal with AstraZeneca for possible COVID-19 vaccine

SYDNEY: Australia has signed a deal with drugmaker AstraZeneca to secure a potential COVID-19 vaccine, the prime minister said on Tuesday (Aug 18), joining a growing list of countries lining up supplies of the drug.

AstraZenecas candidate is seen as a frontrunner in the global race to deliver an effective vaccine against the coronavirus that has killed more than 770,000 people and infected nearly 22 million, according to a Reuters tally.

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With several countries moving to secure supplies that some fear may lead to a global shortage, Australia said it had signed a letter of intent with AstraZeneca to produce and distribute enough doses for its population.

"Under this deal we have secured early access for every Australian," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in an emailed statement.

"If this vaccine proves successful we will manufacture and supply vaccines straight away under our own steam and make it free for 25 million Australians."

Countries around the world are looking to secure supplies of Astrazeneca's potential vaccine. Most recently Argentina and Mexico said last week they would produce it for much of Latin America.

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READ: EU agrees first COVID-19 vaccine deal with AstraZeneca in WHO blow

Morrison, however, cautioned that while AstraZeneca's candidate is showing early promise, there was no guarantee it would materialise as an effective tool in preventing COVID-19.

Once heralded as a global leader in combating COVID-19, Australia has seen a surge of new infections in the past month. Yet its tally of nearly 24,000 cases and 438 deaths is still far fewer than many other developed nations.

READ: COVID-19 infections in Australia hit one-month low

Morrison said Australia is also committed to ensuring early access to a vaccine for Pacific countries, which are increasingly wooed by China, much to Canberra's concern.

Earlier, Australia's bigRead More – Source