Australians will soon get a third choice of COVID-19 vaccine with the Therapeutic Goods Administration giving its provisional approval to Moderna.
Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine has moved a step closer to going into Australians' arms with the medicines regulator giving provisional approval. Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday announced Moderna has been granted Therapeutic Goods Administration provisional approval, joining Pfizer and AstraZeneca in Australia's vaccine armoury. The government has secured 25 million doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, including the supply of 10 million doses in 2021 and 15 million doses of its updated variant booster vaccine in 2022.
Moderna, like Pfizer, is a messenger RNA vaccine which teaches cells how to make a protein to trigger an immune response. It requires two doses 28 days apart. There have been more than 140 million doses of Moderna used in the United States.
Therapeutic Goods Administration boss John Skerritt said the vaccine was 93 per cent effective against COVID-19 infection, 98 per cent against severe disease and 100 per cent against death.
"It's very exciting to see such sustained activity of that vaccine six months after," he told reporters in Canberra. It also seems to be quite efficacious against variants although the company is doing some further work on development."
The first one million doses are due to arrive next month and will be allocated to pharmacies. Three million doses are expected to arrive in each of the final three months of the year. "This is another important tool that we have in our battle against COVID," Mr Morrison said. "We'll have it in our hands and we will have the jabs in our arms starting next month."
Moderna is seeking to make its vaccine available to Australians as young as 12, but could also use Australia as a trial country for vaccinating children as young as six months. Professor Skerritt said the regulator was working with businesses on wider use of rapid antigen tests, which can return results in 15 minutes but are less accurate than swabs. "These are not the gold standard PCR test, but they are a useful adjunct," he said.
Mr Morrison earlier ruled out enlisting Tabcorp to run a lottery for people who are vaccinated against coronavirus. The prime minister did not dispute reports senior government officials sought advice from the gambling giant about the design of a lottery. "We are not proceeding with any arrangement like that with Tabcorp," he told parliament. Labor has called for every person who receives both doses by December to be handed one-off $300 payments.
Mr Morrison has fiercely opposed the $6 billion plan and argues offering people extra motivation to be immunised is not immediately necessary. Labor's health spokesman Mark Butler said other countries started using Moderna before the government entered talks with the company. "Australia has the lowest vaccination rate in the developed world, all because Scott Morrison has been so slow to act in procuring deals with Pfizer and Moderna," Mr Butler told reporters in Adelaide.
Australia has fully vaccinated 22.5 percent of people aged 16 and over with 13.7 million doses administered since February. The coronavirus crisis in NSW continues with 283 new local infections and one death reported on Monday. There are 70 people in intensive care nationally with 67 of those in NSW. Tamworth will be locked down after an infectious person visited multiple places in the regional centre. A snap one-week lockdown was also announced for areas in northern NSW including Byron Bay after a man infected with COVID-19 visited the area.
Victoria recorded 11 new cases but none in regional parts of the state, which will be released from lockdown on Tuesday. Cairns is on high alert for new cases after starting a three-day lockdown because of an infected taxi driver.