From 2024, Australia will produce millions of mRNA vaccines per year thanks to a partnership struck between the federal government and Moderna and the Victorian government to develop a local production plant in Victoria.
The in-principle agreement to build the country’s first mRNA manufacturing facility will also give Australians priority access to non-pandemic vaccines, such as potential influenza shots, which Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said is critical for their protection.
“The new mRNA manufacturing plant in Victoria will create respiratory vaccines to protect lives and livelihoods in the event of future pandemics and seasonal health crises such as the common flu,” he stated.
The facility, according to Health Minister Greg Hunt, will be critical to the country’s medical manufacturing future and will help meet the country’s COVID-19 vaccination needs.
According to the Moderna agreement, the plant will begin producing 25 million doses per year in 2024, with the capacity to increase to 100 million doses in the event of subsequent pandemics. The Victorian government estimates that the contract will create up to 500 construction jobs and another 500 long-term jobs.
Local capabilities, according to Acting Premier James Merlino, can help prevent global supply chain concerns and give a stronger defence against future pandemics.
“This is a major announcement not just for Victoria, but for the entire country,” he added. “Being able to manufacture mRNA vaccines and treatments locally will lock in vaccine security both on our coasts and beyond our region.”
The Moderna contract is still being finalised, and the location of the manufacturing facility, which would produce the vaccine as well as complete the fill-and-finish portion of the manufacturing process on the same site, has yet to be determined. Due to commercial contract negotiations, the federal government could not say how much the partnership would cost.
Moderna has also promised to conduct clinical trials in Australia, has committed to continued research and development onshore, and will base its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Melbourne as part of the agreement.
From 2022 to 2023, the Commonwealth will invest up to $25 million in mRNA clinical trial awards to boost local research and innovation.
Mr Morrison claimed that Commonwealth funding in the Medical Research Future Fund, the modern manufacturing programme, and research and development tax advantages had helped Victoria become a leader in medical research.
“With an established workforce with the proper skills and funding, Melbourne is now rightly recognised as a global leader in medical research,” he added.
Michael Azrak, the general manager of Moderna Australia and New Zealand, said the company was proud to be at the forefront of mRNA vaccine development.