Monday, 24 August 2020
Questions without Notice
I want to thank the member for Higgins, who has had a distinguished career in medical research and medical treatment. We know that the search for a vaccine is one upon which the world is focused. There are over 160 clinical trials. Without a vaccine, we won't be able to return fully to the life which we have all known in the foreseeable future. This is an unfortunate and sad reality.
But, at the same time, Australia is deeply engaged in the four elements of our national strategy for the vaccine. In particular, first, there is research. We have allocated over $358 million towards research in relation to vaccines, preventions, treatments and respiratory medicines. Most significantly, there's been an investment of $5 million in the University of Queensland molecular clamp. There's another vaccine round currently underway. Funding has been provided to preventions and treatments from multiple proponents. All of these things are helping to make Australia one of the leaders in the search for a cure.
But there are also the other elements of our national vaccine strategy. They include, in particular, direct purchasing, international engagement through the Gavi COVAX Facility and Australian based manufacturing. In terms of the direct purchasing, we have struck the first stage of our agreement with AstraZeneca to give Australia whole-of-population access for free, for all Australians, to the AstraZeneca vaccine if it is safe and if it is effective. That is an extraordinary breakthrough.
In addition, we are in the process of negotiating with other possible vaccine candidates, both within Australia and around the world. Further, we have completed the Gavi Covax Facility stage 1, which is the stage to which it has progressed so far, in which, along with other countries, we have expressed our intent to participate. If, as we expect it will, it proceeds to stage 2 and it acts as a common platform for investment in return for common participation in whichever vaccine is successful, we will be part of that. Stage 3, of course, is Australian manufacturing, and we are blessed and in a fortunate position with CSL. CSL is part of our national response, and we've been working very closely with CSL—not just the department but the Prime Minister, me, the minister for industry and others. We are very strongly placed to be able to not only acquire vaccines but distribute them to the whole population on the basis of Australian manufacture, and that comes from our national vaccine strategy plan.