Australia is a step closer to rolling out a coronavirus vaccine with two potential jabs being fast-tracked for approval.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration has given the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines the green light after “very promising” data from early clinical trial phases.
This puts both developers on track for approval in January and for Australians to be vaccinated against COVID-19 from March 2021.
“It essentially expedites the process and brings critical medicines, or vaccines, at a faster rate then would otherwise be the case but with an absolute premium on safety,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said.
“We are on track to deliver vaccines to Australians commencing in March of 2021.”
The Therapeutic Goods Administration is expected to receive more clinical information needed to approve the vaccines around December.
The news comes as the Morrison government confirmed it would be able to distribute Pfizer’s world-first messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) type vaccine, which needs to be kept at minus 70C.
Very “sophisticated eskies”, which require dry ice that lasts for 14 days, would be used to hold and transport the vaccines, Therapeutic Goods Administration deputy secretary John Skerritt said.
“(The eskies) can be refilled twice without the need to connect to electricity,” Professor Skerritt said.
“These eskies with the two refills gives you a month-and-a-half of cold chain protection.”
The distribution process that goes to the National Cabinet on Friday includes giving vaccines to hospitals, respiratory clinics and general practices.
Professor Skerritt said the eskies would speed up the rollout of the vaccines because they allowed for multiple distribution points.
However, he said the jabs would not be approved until experts were confident they met the requirements of efficacy and safety.
Australia has invested in four potential coronavirus vaccines and secured 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
“We won’t be out of this until we have a nation which has had a full vaccination program, but we’re on track to secure those vaccines,” Mr Hunt said.
“We have enough, not just for the Australian population but three times over.”