Australia says it has secured access to a promising coronavirus vaccine and will be able to offer free doses to its entire population of 25 million people.
The vaccine is being developed by the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and Oxford University.
If clinical trials are successful, the deal with AstraZeneca would secure “early access for every Australian”, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
Australia’s death toll from the coronavirus stands at more than 400.
Earlier this month, the state of Victoria declared a state of emergency and imposed strict lockdown measures after a surge in coronavirus infections. It still has more than 7,000 active cases and remains Australia’s worst concern.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is one of five promising candidates to reach an advanced stage of clinical trials, with countries around the world seeking to secure supplies for their own populations.
“If this vaccine proves successful, we will manufacture and supply vaccines straight away under our own steam and make it free for 25 million Australians,” Mr Morrison said.
The cost of supplying the vaccine to the whole population has not yet been fixed. Separately, Australia has also signed a deal worth A$25m (£13.5m; $18m) with Becton Dickinson, an American pharmaceutical company, to supply 100 million needles and syringes.
The deal with AstraZeneca is the first such vaccine agreement that Australia has signed.
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