A multi-billion-dollar deal between the Commonwealth, Victorian government and Moderna has been inked, with an mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility to be up and running by 2024.
After signing an in-principle agreement with Moderna in mid-December, Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday morning announced there had now been a final agreement, with construction on the facility to begin by the end of the year.
The agreement will run for the next 10 years and is a “multi-billion-dollar deal”. But the federal government will be keeping the exact value of its contribution to the manufacturing facility secret due to a commercial-in-confidence clause.
The manufacturing hub will eventually be able to produce up to 100 million vaccine doses each year for Covid-19 and seasonal flus, with Australia to have priority access to these vaccines.
Mr Morrison said the announcement is a “short in the arm” for Australia.
“This will be the first mRNA production facility in the Southern Hemisphere, and will ensure Australians have quick and easy access to these life-saving vaccines,” Mr Morrison said.
The facility will also see Moderna partnering with local researchers and institutions on research and development projects, the pharmaceutical giant’s Australian general manager Michael Azrak said.
“I’m really excited about the R&D collaboration Moderna is going to commit to. Science has never moved faster than it is today. Australia is the first country in the world to reach an agreement with Moderna for onshore manufacturing,” Mr Azrak said.
Health minister Greg Hunt also pointed to this focus on R&D and said the facility will go far beyond Covid-19 vaccines.
“This is like bringing one of Apple’s global R&D and manufacturing hubs to Australia in 1990. We’re in on the ground but we’re here for the long term,” Mr Hunt said.
Shadow Industry minister Ed Husic welcomed the announcement but said the government had “lied” previously about the timeline for delivering local vaccine manufacturing.
“Why is it that Scott Morrison is always on time for an announcement that makes him look good but he’s never on time delivering on the announcement?” Mr Husic told the media on Thursday morning.
“In October 2020 this government said they would be manufacturing these vaccines in 9 to 12 months. We knew all along it was going to take them up to four years but they kept saying it would be sooner.
“Why did they lie on an announcement this important? If they can lie about something this important…is it really a fair dinkum announcement? You need to let their track record speak for itself.”
The federal government announced late last year that it had opted to partner with Moderna and the Victorian government to establish an onshore mRNA vaccine manufacturing capability after nearly a year of deliberations.
Consulting giant McKinsey was paid nearly $7 million to provide advice throughout this process, which also saw the Industry department go to the local market for blueprints for an end-to-end capability.
Australian medical giant CSL had pitched its services to the government to establish an mRNA manufacturing facility but was not selected. The company is now considering establishing such a facility outside of Australia.
Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.