Australia to keep making AstraZeneca doses

Australian-produced AstraZeneca vaccines have been sent to Fiji, PNG and other Pacific nations.
Australian-produced AstraZeneca vaccines have been sent to Fiji, PNG and other Pacific nations.

AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine will continue being produced in Australia into next year with leftover doses being shipped to neighbouring countries.

Health Minister Greg Hunt on Thursday rejected reports CSL would stop producing the vaccine in Melbourne this year, as coronavirus cases reached a new national daily record.

"CSL and AstraZeneca are on track to complete the full 50 million-dose production run in Australia and the 3.8 million supply from overseas," he told reporters.

"Our expectation and our plan is that that program will be completed in full. All of those extra doses are being supplied to the region."

He noted Fiji's vaccine rollout was boosted by Australian AstraZeneca doses, which were also sent to Indonesia, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea and other Pacific nations.

A CSL spokeswoman said 20 million doses had been produced in Australia for use locally and in the Asia Pacific region.

"CSL and Seqirus are proud of the role they have played in providing Australia with onshore vaccine manufacturing capability throughout the pandemic," she said.

AstraZeneca was intended to be the mainstay of Australia's rollout until medical advice about extremely rare side effects changed its age recommendations.

Health department secretary Brendan Murphy said overseas doses could make up the balance of the contract if CSL did not manufacture the full 50 million.

"CSL were only ever doing this as a one-off they were never going to be a long-term manufacturer of AstraZeneca," he told a Senate hearing,

"This is just confirming what had already been an agreement with CSL There wasn't ever an agreement to continue manufacturing it long term."

Vaccine rollout co-ordinator John Frewen said 12.5 million AstraZeneca doses had been administered in Australia and 3.5 million sent to the Pacific.

Australia is now exporting 800,000 of the roughly one million locally produced doses each week.

Professor Murphy said while some Australians would continue to receive second AstraZeneca doses, demand was tailing off because older populations were highly vaccinated.

Victoria posted a massive COVID-19 increase on Thursday with 2297 new infections and 11 deaths while NSW reported 406 locally acquired cases and six fatalities.

There were 41 new cases in Canberra where lockdown will end at midnight.

It is the biggest daily case increase in one day during the coronavirus pandemic.

Asked about the concerning spike in his home state, Mr Hunt urged Victorians to come forward for vaccination and keep following health measures.

"It's another difficult day in Victoria but we'll get there, we really will," he said.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Sonya Bennett said case numbers in Victoria were expected to remain high but not increase exponentially.

"It's disappointing but not unexpected," she said.

"It all hinges around that effective reproductive number. So, if every case is transmitting to more than one case, we'll see those numbers continue to rise."

Dr Bennett said vaccination, testing, contact tracing, public health measures and hygiene would stop the virus spreading as rapidly.

Australia has fully vaccinated 65.4 per cent of its eligible population aged 16 and over, while more than 83.6 per cent have received their first dose.

Australian Associated Press