Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday, August 18, said the country has signed a deal with British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to secure a potential COVID-19 vaccine. The PM added that if the vaccine is "successful, safe and effective", it will will be made free for all citizens.
"Under the deal, every single Australian will be able to receive the University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine for free, should trials prove successful, safe and effective," PM Morrison said in a statement, according to Associated Press.
Amid the global race to deliver an effective vaccine against COVID-19, AstraZeneca's candidate is seen as a frontrunner. To produce and distribute enough doses of the vaccine for its population, Australia said that it has signed a letter of intent with AstraZeneca.
"Under this deal we have secured early access for every Australian. If this vaccine proves successful, we will manufacture and supply vaccines straight away under our own steam and make it free for 25 million Australians," the PM added.
Meanwhile, countries across the globe are looking to secure supplies of Astrazeneca's potential vaccine, with Argentina and Mexico announcing last week that they would produce it for most of Latin America.
Even as AstraZeneca's candidate is showing early promise, Morrison, however, said that it was not guaranteed that this would develop as an effecting tool in preventing COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Morrison also said that Australia is committed to ensuring early access to a vaccine for Pacific countries.
"Australia will also play an important role in supporting our Pacific family," Morrison said.
In the past month, Australia has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases. Till date, the country has reported nearly 24,000 cases of the virus, of which, as many as 438 people have succumbed to the virus.