COVID-19 vaccination will not be compulsory
No Australians will be forced to vaccinate against coronavirus when a shot becomes available, deputy chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly said.
It comes as concerns are building that Australia may not get quick access to any COVID-19 vaccine developed overseas with powerful foreign countries fighting to treat their own citizens first.
And even though Australia has a local manufacturer - CSL - it may not be able to produce some of the new MRNA and DNA vaccines against coronavirus because it does not have the technology to do so.
The former head of the health department Jane Halton has called for the no jab no play policy applying to children in children in childcare to be extended to adults as she took aim at footballers who have been refusing to get their flu vaccinations.
"Forget the no jab no play for kids it's now no jab no play for adults and everybody should actually step up and do the right thing," she said.
There would be enormous moral pressure on all adults to have a vaccine against COVID-19 when one became available, she warned.
However, Professor Kelly said while there was always a pocket of people against vaccinations but he thought most people would be keen to get protected against COVID-19.
"I'm not in favour of compulsory vaccination, but I'm sure that it will be a very strong uptake of this, given how much we've seen and the devastation that this virus has caused around the world, that people will be queuing up for vaccination rather than the opposite," he said yesterday.
Ms Halton, who is now in charge of the $1.4 billion global development of a COVID-19 vaccine for the Centre for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation, has also issued a warning about "vaccine nationalism".
"What we also need to do is make sure that that vaccine is globally distributed," she said.
"We do need to understand if this virus is everywhere in the world and vulnerable people are not protected, everyone is still vulnerable," she told the National Press Club.
Pharmaceutical giant Sanofi has already had to backtrack after it said the US would have first rights to any coronavirus vaccine it developed, she said.
Solving this problem and finding ways to mass produce eight billion doses of any vaccine is taking up much of her time and "it's quite tricky," she said.
Negotiations are underway at a global level to ensure any vaccine is shared around the world and that people living in poorer countries also get access to it.
However, no deals have been settled and it is unclear whether a vaccine will be patented.
Health workers, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 should get priority access to any successful vaccine, she said.
Australia has a local vaccine manufacturing plant in CSL but it may not be able to produce all the different types of vaccine under development.
CSL told News Corp its vaccine subsidiary Seqiris was already working with the University of Queensland and could produce its world leading COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
"Assuming the successful vaccine candidate uses recombinant technology, CSL has the existing capability in Victoria to manufacture enough doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to service Australia's population, as well as some countries in our region," the company aid.
CSL would also be able to manufacture the COVID-19 vaccine being produced by Oxford University but other leading vaccine candidates use RNA and DNA technology and the company would have to reconfigure its site to produce them.
Originally published as COVID-19 vaccination will not be compulsory