KEY POINTS

  • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants any approved coronavirus vaccine to be "as mandatory as you can possibly make it"
  • He is hopeful that a new vaccine being developed in the UK will soon gain approval for use in Australia
  • Scientists are stressing the importance of widespread vaccinations for a population to develop herd immunity

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he expects to make coronavirus vaccination "mandatory” once the drug becomes available for use, amid concerns voiced by experts worldwide that herd immunity to the pandemic can develop only if enough people get innoculated.

In a Wednesday interview with Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), Morrison said he is "hopeful but also naturally cautious" that a vaccine being developed in the UK will prove to be successful against the coronavirus. He said he is even more hopeful that his people will take advantage of it.

"I would expect it to be as mandatory as you can possibly make it,” Morrison said. "There are always exemptions for any vaccine on medical grounds but that should be the only basis.

"I mean, we’re talking about a pandemic that has destroyed you know, the global economy, and taken the lives of hundreds of thousands all around the world and over 450 Australians here."

Morrison later told reporters he is planning for a high vaccination rate across the continent. "There won't be any cutting corners, there won't be undue haste. "I'm advised we'll need about a 95 percent vaccination rate across the country," he said. 

The medical community is stressing the importance of high vaccination rates for a population to develop herd immunity. Morrison also sent a message to anti-vaxxers who may fear the treatment and may try to refuse it. "You have to do it for yourself, your family, and for your fellow Australians," he said.

The drug that is raising hopes is called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 and is made by AstraZeneca PLC, a British-Swedish multinational company, and Oxford University in the UK. It was given a boost on July 20 by The Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and best-known peer-reviewed general medical journals.

In the Lancet summary report on the safety and immunogenicity of the drug, the interpretation of test results read, “ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 showed an acceptable safety profile, and homologous boosting increased antibody responses. These results, together with the induction of both humoral and cellular immune responses, support large-scale evaluation of this candidate vaccine in an ongoing phase 3 program.”

The plans for the vaccine include trials that are already underway in the UK, Brazil, and South Africa and are scheduled to start in the US. The trials are expected to run into early 2021. If they are successful, every Australian could get the vaccination for free by early next year.

Morrison echoed those sentiments on the radio program on Wednesday when he said, "If we can get it done earlier than that, we will. We need the most extensive and comprehensive response to this to get Australia back to normal. We are not putting everything in the AstraZeneca basket, but it is one of the most advanced and the most likely, based on the expert advice we have.”  

A more cautious tone was expressed by acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly who said Wednesday, "This particular vaccine is an unproven technology so far, but the initial results are very positive.”

The plans to inoculate most of Australia’s 25 million people will be a figurative “shot in the arm” for the Australian economy. One beneficiary will be Becton Dickinson, a medical device company that signed a needle and syringe contract under Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine and treatment strategy. A letter of intent for the vaccine has also been signed with AstraZeneca.

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