While there’s another dose of confusion over AstraZeneca, the government still hasn’t told us how much it cost.
Yesterday, we learned that Australia would no longer produce the AstraZeneca vaccine, suspending any further manufacturing by Christmas. As the NZ Herald noted, “Once the current order is complete, it’s expected the vaccine’s Melbourne manufacturer, CSL, will cease production, and the Federal Government will ‘almost certainly’ not extend the contract beyond this year.”
— Chris O’Keefe (@cokeefe9) October 13, 2021
However, this morning, like magic, it seems that the contract will go on, and the manufacturing of the vaccine will continue into 2022. A CSL spokesperson told Nine’s Izabella Staskowski that manufacturing would continue into next year and the full contract for 50 million doses would be met.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has been a source of derision and concern, but mystery has long swirled around it. In June, The Guardian reported that the government has announced plans to shelve the supposedly controversial vaccine by October, suggesting it will have enough supplies of other vaccines to meet ‘allocation horizons’ for vaccinating the population by year’s end.
To this day, the Health Department website continues to bloviate on the A-Z’s bonafides: “50 million doses will be manufactured in Australia by multinational biopharmaceutical company CSL, in partnership with the developer, international pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. Distribution of these Australian-made CSL doses has commenced and will continue on an ongoing basis.”
Show me the money
Canberra is being extremely tight-lipped about the detail of the contract, admitting the amount of doses it ordered, but not their cost. There’s nothing on the AusTender site, and there’s very little that’s been reported in the press about how much it all cost. The federal government is refusing to say how much it is paying the four companies it contracted to help distribute the Covid-19 vaccine, saying the information is “commercial in confidence”.
BioPharma-Reporter.com initially covered the deal last September, noting the Australian government had made a $A1.7 billion supply and production agreement for Astra Zeneca COVID-19 vaccines, with the first doses set to arrive in January 2021. At the time, the reporting was that 33.8 million doses were coming from AZ, an additional 30 million doses being manufactured by CSL, and 51 million doses to be secured from the now-abandoned University of Queensland operation.
Per the government’s own vaccine info on the Dept of Health’s website, “Australia has entered into 5 separate agreements to secure more than 195 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines if they prove to be safe and effective.” The ‘if’ in that sentence doing a lot of the heavy lifting there.
The Australian Government has invested over $5 billion in these agreements (Pfizer, Moderna, University of Oxford/AstraZeneca, Novavax, and the Covax Facility). This will, according to the Health site, “strengthen Australia’s position to have safe and effective vaccines as they become available.”
Somewhere in there among the $5 billion is the $350 million invested “to support vaccine research and development. The investment will contribute to the global effort to find successful vaccines and treatments to stop the spread of COVID-19.”