In a supply chain shortage workaround, Australia's Victoria state aims to build its own mRNA facility
As countries all around the world have experienced troubles with vaccine shortages, Australia’s Victoria state is developing its own mRNA manufacturing facility in an effort to up its number of vaccinated residents.
Victoria will spend $39 million to set up the facility, which could be the first in the southern hemisphere, Reuters reported. The mRNA technology is used in the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, and has gotten more attention, as adenovirus-based vaccines from AstraZeneca and J&J have had reports of rare, but similar blood clots in some patients. There have been no reports of major side effects in either Moderna or Pfizer’s jab.
Local manufacturing capability would avoid global supply chain issues and “provide vaccine security,” a release from the Victorian government said. Acting Premier James Merlino said that it would likely take a year for vaccines to be made in the country, according to Reuters.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is produced in Australia, but is only administered to those over the age of 50 right now. The country’s virus numbers have been low, compared to the US. As of Tuesday, there were 186 active cases in the entire country. There have been 29,578 total cases, 910 deaths and 47 total hospitalizations due to the virus. Just one case has been acquired locally in the past week, according to Australian health officials.
“There are major advantages to this technology including high efficacy, rapid speed in development, and flexible manufacturing processes,” minister for health Martin Foley said in a statement. “Victoria is well positioned to be at the forefront of this effort.”
Nearly 1.3 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered as of April 14, according to health officials. That’s far short of the Australian government’s goal of 4 million by the end of March.
Australia restricted the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine last month, and some shipments of the vaccine intended to come from Italy have been blocked by EU officials. The shortage has been widespread, as Canada and Spain, among other countries, have struggled to obtain an adequate number of doses.
A study in the UK has explored the use of mixing 2 different Covid-19 vaccines to increase the number of people vaccinated while doses are in short supply. Moderna — an mRNA-based vaccine — and Novavax — a protein-based vaccine that teaches the immune system to make antibodies — were added to that study a week ago.