Australia has reached a supply agreement for 25 million doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines in a deal that the government hopes will ensure all Australian adults have access to inoculation this year.
The deal included 10 million doses of the vaccine against the ancestral strain to be delivered in 2021 and 15 million doses of an updated variant booster to be delivered in 2022, U.S.-based Moderna said on Thursday.
The vaccines have yet to be approved by the Australian regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Pfizer and AstraZeneca are the only coronavirus vaccines approved for use in Australia. All three vaccines require two doses.
“This locks in our capacity to ensure that every Australian has access to a vaccine this year,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said.
Australia has contracted 20 million imported Pfizer doses, which is the preferred option for adults under 50 years old because of the blood clotting risks associated with the AstraZeneca shot. The government also has deals for 3.8 million imported AstraZeneca doses plus 50 million locally manufactured shots.
The government expects Moderna vaccines would be recommended for Australians under 50.
Hunt said he expects the first of Australia’s order of 51 million doses of the Novavax vaccine will be delivered this year.
Australia’s CSL plant would manufacture the 50 million AstraZeneca doses as planned. Shots that Australia did not need would be donated to neighboring countries, Hunt said.
“We are continuing on with the production because we think if a country can be producing vaccines, the world needs those vaccines if we have more than we need,” Hunt said.
The vaccine rollout began in February, and the government had expected to administer 4 million doses by the end of March. But only 2.8 million doses had been injected by this week, with the government blaming slow shipments for delays.
Australia has been relatively successful in containing the virus. While 910 have died of COVID-19, the government argues the death told would be 30,000 higher if Australia’s fatality rate was the average of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries.