The largest flu vaccine manufacturing plant in the southern hemisphere will be built in Melbourne

Experts say any prediction on a vaccine timeframe is still an 'educated gamble'.

The largest flu vaccine manufacturing plant in the southern hemisphere will be built in Melbourne, in an effort to make sure Australia has stockpiles of critical vaccines and antivenoms in the future.

Key points:

  • The facility will take five years to build and will be operational by 2026
  • The Federal Government is putting $1 billion towards the project
  • Vaccines made at the new plant will be cell-based instead of egg-based

The new facility will be built in Melbourne’s Airport business park and is expected to be operational by 2026.

It will be funded through a joint venture between the Federal Government, who are putting $1 billion towards the project, and Seqirus – a subsidiary of biotech company CSL – which will contribute $800 million.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the facility would provide support for a range of vaccines.

“It will provide support for pandemic flu, seasonal flu, antivenoms and Q fever,” he said.

“It’s a five-year process to construct a major new vaccine facility [and] it locks Australia’s sovereign vaccine manufacturing capability for the next two decades.

A medical professional in blue gloves prepares to give a woman a vaccineA medical professional in blue gloves prepares to give a woman a vaccine

The facility will produce vaccines for influenza as well as antivenoms.(Pexels: Gustavo Fring)

Mr Hunt said the facility, which would be the largest flu vaccine manufacturer in the southern hemisphere, would use “cell-based” technology, allowing it greater capacity and speed.

Currently, many vaccines are grown in chicken eggs, whereas this facility will use cells instead.

Mr Hunt said the facility would future-proof Australia’s access to coronavirus vaccines, among others.

“It’s the long term benefit … we have the capacity with CSL’s existing plant in Melbourne, [but] that’s an egg-based facility and the world is moving to cellular facilities, so we didn’t want to lose that capability.

“The new plant allows faster and greater capacity.”

The announcement comes after National Cabinet agreed to a vaccination policy that outlined the Government’s strategy for a nation-wide vaccine rollout if one becomes available.

Last week CSL began manufacturing doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, despite it not yet being approved and still going through phase-three clinical trials.

If it is approved it could mean Australians would have access to the vaccine by mid-2021.

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