PM’s vaccine claim: Drug firm says there is ‘no deal’
Drug company AstaZeneca denies Prime Minister Scott Morrison's claim he has reached a deal to secure 25 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine being developed by Oxford University.
The Pharmaceutical company's UK Headquarters told pharmaceutical industry newsletter Pharma in Focus all the government has is a letter of intent.
"The LOI doesn't go into any detail about costs or numbers or anything until we have an idea of what the manufacturing capacity is - that's a critical piece in the puzzle," a spokesperson said.
Mr Morrison has also claimed CSL will manufacture the vaccine here but AstraZeneca says as of now there is no such deal.
"Discussions with CSL are ongoing. They''re still looking into whether they have the capability and capacity to produce a vaccine. We''re hoping that those discussions will be concluded swiftly but they''re still ongoing," the company spokesman told Pharma in Focus.
Mr Morrison has spent the day in a series of media appearances spruiking the vaccine deal.
"I'm obviously not a medical expert, but my advice is that, you know, we have the capacity to produce that type of a vaccine here in Australia and it's just a matter of basically getting the formula and off you go," he told Channel Ten.
"Australians will be among the first in the world to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, if it proves successful, through an agreement between the Australian Government and UK-based drug company AstraZeneca," he said in a media release.
"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," he said.
CSL has repeatedly told News Corp it s priority is producing the COVID-19 vaccine being developed by the University of Queensland.
"Development of the UQ vaccine candidate remains CSL's priority.
However, we are currently in discussions with AstraZeneca and the Australian Government to assess whether it is possible to provide local manufacturing support for the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine, should it prove successful, while protecting our commitment to the UQ vaccine.
We are assessing the viability of options ranging from the fill and finish of bulk product imported to Australia through to manufacture of the vaccine candidate under licence.
There are a number of technical issues to work through and discussions are ongoing"
It is likely to take the company months to reconfigure its plant to make the Oxford vaccine if it does eventually get a deal to manufacture it here.
The UK and the US secured a deal with AstraZeneca to obtain hundreds of millions of doses of the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine in May.
They are likely to get it well ahead of Australia, production of the vaccine is already well advanced in the UK.
Mr Morrison's office responded by saying "AstraZeneca has put out a statement on those claims", but did not provide any further detail.
Opposition health spokesman Chris Bowen said no agreement had been signed with AstraZeneca.
"The fact of the matter is, the Prime Minister this morning wasn't telling the truth," he said in Sydney.
"Today AstraZeneca has said there is no agreement that has been signed," he said.
When the Prime Minister says Australians will have first access to this vaccine "he is simply not telling the truth" Mr Bowen said.
Other countries had vaccine supply deals with multiple pharmaceutical companies but we had none, he said.
"The United States has got six agreements, United Kingdom's got five, Japan's got three, other countries are managing their risk, ensuring that their citizens will have access to the best chance vaccines in development. The Morrison Government simply isn't doing that," he said.
Mr Morrison's spokesman has confirmed all the government has secured so far is a 'Letter of intent ' rather than a deal which allow Australia to manufacture the Oxford vaccine locally.
"Next, in a few days, is manufacturing agreement, from which you determine dose/price/contract," he told News Corp.
AstraZeneca's Australian office told News Corp that Australia did not have a purchasing agreement for a COVID-19 even though nine other countries did.
At this stage Australia had only signed a letter of intent but that did not secure access to any doses of the vaccine the company said.
"AstraZeneca is pleased to have signed a Letter of Intent with the Australian Government today, ensuring people in Australia are a step closer to having a vaccine against COVID-19 available, should the AstraZeneca / Oxford University candidate, AZD1222, prove successful," the company said in a statement.
"The next step will be to conclude other contractual agreements, including arrangements with a selected manufacturer who can produce the vaccine locally," the company said.
The company was unable to say whether the vaccine would be available to Australians by Christmas.
"As a company, AstraZeneca is committed to ensuring fair and equitable access to a vaccine against COVID-19, and will provide the vaccine at no profit during the pandemic," the company said.
The US, UK, Japan, Brazil, Latin America, the EU, Russia and South Korea all have purchasing agreements for the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Originally published as PM's vaccine claim: Drug firm says 'no deal'