'Cutting edge': Moderna mRNA vaccines to be produced in Victoria after landmark deal with the federal government

Finn McHugh
By Finn McHugh
Updated March 24 2022 - 3:20am, first published March 23 2022 - 6:30pm

Australia will house the southern hemisphere's first mRNA vaccine manufacturing centre after a landmark agreement stuck by the federal government.

Pharmaceutical giant Moderna has confirmed a deal with the Coalition and Victorian state government to make mRNA vaccines in Australia from 2024.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the development as a "shot in the arm" for Australia's pandemic defences, claiming the agreement will support roughly 500 direct jobs.

"[It] will protect Australians from future pandemics and secure a new manufacturing capability right here on our shores ... and will ensure Australians have quick and easy access to these lifesaving vaccines," he said.

mRNA technology, easily altered to combat the rapidly-changing COVID-19 virus, can be used to vaccinate against a host of respiratory illnesses.

Moderna vaccines will be produced in Australia from 2024. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

AstraZeneca - not mRNA - is the only COVID-19 vaccine currently manufactured onshore, while Australians are also eligible for two mRNA jabs - Moderna and Pfizer - sourced from overseas.

But the production of up to 100 million mRNA doses annually is now set to begin in 2024, pending regulatory approvals.

Moderna Australia and New Zealand general manager Michael Azrak said the deal will provide Australians with direct access to vaccines for a range of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19 and seasonal influenza.

"Moderna is backing the development of a world class mRNA industry in Australia," he said.

The Victorian site will serve as the company's headquarters for Australia, South-East Asia and Oceania.

Scott Morrison describes the deal as a 'shot in the arm' for Australia's pandemic planning. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Experts have also warned pandemics will become increasingly common over the next century, as climate destruction forces animals - a major source of new illnesses - to migrate closer to human populations.

Health Minister Greg Hunt described onshore mRNA production as "crucial insurance" against future threats.

"It means Australians will have access to the most cutting-edge vaccination technology available both now and into the future," he said.

MORE COVID-19 NEWS:

As Australian health authorities mull over the need for fourth doses for immunocompromised people, COVID-19 has underlined global vaccine inequality.

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Ten billion vaccine doses have been administered across the globe, but rates in Africa remain mired despite rich nations completing booster rounds; just 11 per cent of Africa received two doses, compared to a global average of around 50 per cent.

In February, the World Health Organisation announced six African nations will receive the technology and funding needed to produce their own mRNA vaccines.

Finn McHugh

Finn McHugh

Federal Political Reporter

Finn McHugh has been federal political reporter for The Canberra Times since July 2021. He joined the Canberra Press Gallery in 2019 where he was executive producer of Sky News's AM Agenda, before joining NCA NewsWire as a federal political reporter. He has previously interned at the Kuwait Times.

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