Australia is set to spend half a billion dollars on an “advance purchase” of COVID-19 vaccines to help its regional neighbors recover from the pandemic.
The Morrison government says giving a helping hand to countries in the Pacific and Southeast Asia will help Australia’s economic recovery and health security.
As the government prepares to spend $ 500 million on a vaccine for neighbors in the region, it has yet to spend money on a vaccine for Australians.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison signed a deal with UK pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which is developing its vaccine at the University of Oxford, in August – but no money was exchanged.
Instead, the federal government has signed a so-called “letter of intent” with AstraZeneca in which the company agrees to deliver the vaccine to Australia as soon as it is approved.
An aerial view of Dili, Timor-Leste. Australia will spend $ 500 over three years to help countries, like Timor-Leste in northern Australia, achieve full vaccination coverage against the virus.
“The Indo-Pacific region is the engine of the new global economy,” Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement on Saturday.
“Ensuring that it can recover quickly will stimulate economic activity and restore jobs at home and abroad.”
Purchases will be made from various manufacturers through the global COVAX Facility plan, which aims to ensure that viral vaccines are shared with all nations.
Australia will provide a range of support with vaccine doses, including vaccine safety and efficacy assessments, advice to regulatory authorities in each country, technical support as well as providing vital information from the World Health Organization.
The plan will be rolled out over three years to help countries, such as Timor-Leste in northern Australia, achieve full vaccine coverage against the virus.
“A rapid and safe deployment of the vaccine in the Pacific and Southeast Asia means that we can return to more normal travel, tourism and trade with our key partners in the region,” Ms. Payne said.
A vegetable vendor in a face mask amid COVID-19 concerns at a market in Dili, Timor-Leste. Countries in the Pacific and Southeast Asia whose economies depend on tourism have been devastated by travel restrictions amid the pandemic. Morrison government says helping countries in the Pacific and South East Asia will help Australia’s economic recovery and health security
The humanitarian agency United Nations Children’s Fund welcomed the news.
“Until the pandemic is over for everyone, it’s nobody’s business and this support for Southeast Asia and the Pacific to introduce an effective vaccine is a big contribution to ensuring the health of all. Australians and our neighbors, ”said Alice Hall, researcher at UNICEF Australia. .
Save the Children Fund said this commitment is a good start, but more needs to be done.
“A vaccine is still a long way off and the pandemic is expected to push half a million more people in the Pacific into poverty,” Deputy Managing Director Mat Tinkler said.
“The economies of the Pacific – many of which rely heavily on tourism – have been decimated.
Tinkler called on the federal government to increase support for poor people in the Pacific as well.
“We urge Australia to work with the Pacific to create a social protection system that reaches the poorest children and families,” he said.
“Strong social intervention would save lives now and is in Australia’s strategic interest.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison (right) shakes hands with Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea James Marape (left) at the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu in August 2019. Papua New Guinea is another island Pacific which could benefit from vaccine funding from Australia
The Australian government has also entered into advance purchase agreements with Astra Zeneca-Oxford and CSL-University of Queensland for more than 84 million units of vaccine.
Mr Morrison signed an agreement with Astra Zeneca-Oxford, which is developing its vaccine at the University of Oxford in August.
The 25 million Australians will be able to get their free shots just weeks after the vaccine is approved, which is expected to be late this year or early next year.
The vaccine, licensed by British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, is in phase three in thousands of people in the UK, Brazil and South Africa.
Previous trials have shown that it generated a strong immune response and a four-fold increase in antibodies to the coronavirus in 95% of participants.
A health worker holds an injection syringe from the phase 3 vaccine trial. The Australian government has made an advance purchase with Astra Zeneca-Oxford, which is developing a phase three vaccine 3 out of thousands in the UK, in Brazil and South Africa.