MRNA licence and vaccine facility urgently needed

The Federal Government needs to licence and produce an mRNA vaccine in Australia immediately to avoid an ongoing shortage of COVID-19 vaccine and frequent lockdowns, according to Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute.

Institute Director Professor Maximilian de Courten said the Federal Government’s call for industry tenders had just closed but feared the process would take 24 months or more before a dedicated mRNA manufacturing facility would open.

“Australia needs to look to countries like Germany which retrofitted a facility and began production of mRNA vaccines within just six months, opening in April. It has more than enough locally made vaccine for their population. We are starting too late, the time lines are too long and we can’t leave this up to private industry,” Professor de Courten said.

“Australia is a sitting duck for the new COVID variants,” Professor de Courten said. “We don’t have enough of the right vaccine and we are taking too long to get our population vaccinated.”

One of Australia’s leading vaccine researchers Victoria University’s Professor Vasso Apostolopoulos warned Australians faced an uncertain future without the capacity to produce mRNA vaccines in country.

“The variants are already starting to evade the existing vaccines so we need six monthly or yearly boosters to combat those. As with the original vaccines, these boosters will be in high demand across the world,” she said.

“The ability to produce mRNA vaccines in Australia is crucial to us staying one step ahead of the COVID variants, ensuring that our economy can open up and remain open and that our hospitals can cope with the volume of COVID patients.”

Just 13% of Australia’s population has been fully vaccinate, leaving us ranked last of the 38 OECD countries. The United Kingdom, Israel and Germany have fully vaccinated 65%, 60% and 50% of their populations. Their health systems have achieved the vaccine rollout despite being at times overwhelmed by COVID patients.

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