| 19 April 2024, Friday |

Australian state seeks to build onshore mRNA vaccine site 

Australia’s Victoria state revealed plans on Wednesday to develop an onshore messenger-RNA (mRNA) vaccine manufacturing facility and launched 3 mass COVID-19 immunization centers to accelerate the national vaccination program.

Victoria would initially spend A$50 million ($39 million) to set up the mRNA facility in the state, which could become the first such center in the southern hemisphere, authorities said. The mRNA technology is used in coronavirus vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer.

Earlier this month, Australia’s immunization drive was thrown into disarray after the government restricted the use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine, which uses a different technology and is the mainstay of the country’s vaccination drive, due to rare blood clotting cases.

Victoria Acting Premier James Merlino said in a statement “it is vital that we can develop and manufacture mRNA vaccines and treatments locally to ensure we have vaccine security here in Australia and across our region.”

Multiple countries are trying to purchase more coronavirus vaccines from Moderna Inc and Pfizer, that use the mRNA technology, as no severe side effects have been reported so far among vaccine recipients.

Reports of potential links between vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca and rare blood clotting incidents have sidelined those jabs.

Australia currently manufactures AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccines in the country but earlier this month restricted its rollout to people above 50 years.

Merlino said he is holding contacts with the federal government on the plan and speculated the cost to build the establishment could be in “the hundreds of millions of dollars”. He added that it could take at least a year for the vaccines to be made in the country.

Meanwhile, Victoria, set up 3 mass immunization centers on Wednesday to provide AstraZeneca vaccines for anyone above 70 years.

Though Australia has fared much better than several other developed countries during the pandemic, with nearly 29,500 infections and 910 fatalities, only about 1.70 million total shots have been administered so far, far short of the 4 million pledged by end-March.

  • Reuters