Australia has made two significant new commitments to health security this week.
On Monday, the Australian government announced a new billion-dollar deal to build the southern hemisphere’s largest vaccine production facility in Melbourne, intended to safeguard a local supply of crucial goods like influenza vaccines and various antivenoms.
Just days earlier, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews revealed a new hub dedicated to addressing infectious diseases like COVID-19 would be built at Melbourne’s renowned Biomedical Precinct. The hub will become the largest infectious disease centre in the Indo-Pacific region.
Andrews said the centre would give Victoria’s world-leading researchers the tools needed to make life-saving medical discoveries.
"Victoria leads the world in medical research and is the natural home for an infectious diseases institute to protect our state and our nation against future pandemics,” he said in a media statement. “We’ve only got through this pandemic by backing our scientists and researchers. We’ll continue to do that and create high-skilled jobs right here in Melbourne.”
Australia's new #AIIDGH infectious diseases hub will help safeguard the nation and stimulate the economy through the creation of industries of the future. A red letter day for Australia: @CrabbBrendan@TheDohertyInst@TheRMH@unimelb@WEHI_research@MCRI_for_kids@DanielAndrewsMPpic.twitter.com/aU5tPlNBVT— Burnet Institute (@BurnetInstitute) November 13, 2020
The revolutionary facility will be constructed next to the Doherty Institute, a shared venture dedicated to curing infectious diseases by the Royal Melbourne Hospital and the University of Melbourne. The new facility, which will allow for greater and more in-depth clinical trials, will also become the new home of medical research centre the Burnet Institute.
"This initiative is a game-changer for Australia’s capacity to respond to global health challenges at home and in our region,” Burnet Institute Director and CEO Brendan Crabb said to media during the initiative’s launch in Melbourne earlier this month.
The manufacturing facility, meanwhile, comes as part of an agreement between the federal government and Seqirus.
Seqirus, the influenza vaccines branch of Australian biotechnology company CSL, is the only group to make influenza and Q fever vaccines in Australia, as well as the only global company to produce antivenom products for uniquely Australian venomous snakes, marine animals and spiders.
The agreement will allow a range of vaccines to be produced locally rather than sourced overseas, and, according to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, secure Australia’s capacity to rapidly manufacture new vaccines “when responding to health pandemics in the future.”
"Keeping Australians safe is my number one priority, and while we are rightly focused on both the health and economic challenges of COVID-19, we must also guard against future threats,” Morrison said in a press release. “This agreement cements Australia’s long-term sovereign medical capabilities, giving us the ability to develop vaccines when we need them.”
The facility is expected to be operational by 2026.
Australia is leading the way when it comes to testing and researching potential vaccines against COVID-19.
The government has invested over $3 billion across five vaccine trials and has officially joined COVAX, a ground-breaking global collaboration that guarantees equitable access to a future COVID-19 vaccine for everyone.
Hundreds of millions in aid has likewise been committed to tackling the virus in the Asia-Pacific.
Australia is also on track to eliminate COVID-19 from its shores, with just 21 cases recorded across the country on Nov. 18.