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Australia signs deal for potential vaccine for entire population

SYDNEY/MELBOURNE: A fresh outbreak of infections in Australia's coronavirus hot zone of Victoria eased further yesterday, while the country agreed a deal to secure a potential Covid-19 vaccine that it plans to roll out cost-free to citizens.

Australia has signed a deal with British drugmaker AstraZeneca to produce and distribute enough doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine for its population of 25 million, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said late on Tuesday.

"Should we be in a position for the trials to be successful, we would hope that this would be made available early next year.

"If it can be done sooner than that, great," Mr Morrison said yesterday.

Meanwhile, Victoria reported 12 deaths and 216 cases in 24 hours, down from more than 700 infections two weeks ago. There were just 12 new cases in three other states.

In a separate development, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said it has written to every country on Tuesday urging them to quickly join its global shared vaccine programme - and spelled out who would get its eventual coronavirus jabs first.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that without vaccinating the planet's highest-risk populations simultaneously, it would be impossible to rebuild the global economy.

And he said the most exposed 20 per cent of each country's population - including front-line health workers, adults over 65 and those with pre-existing conditions - would be targeted in the first wave of vaccinations, once the WHO-led Covax shared facility can roll out a safe and effective vaccine.

"The fastest way to end this pandemic and to reopen economies is to start by protecting the highest risk populations everywhere, rather than the entire populations of just some countries," Mr Tedros told a virtual press conference.

The coronavirus has killed around 775,000 people and infected some 22 million, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.

Pharmaceutical firms are racing to produce a vaccine, with nine of the 29 currently being tested on humans forming part of the Covax Global Vaccines Facility. - REUTERS, AFP

WORLD