Labor has plans to produce a new vaccine type if it wins the next election and says the technology could treat COVID variants for years to come.
Onshore production of a cutting-edge vaccine type will be part of Labor’s post-COVID reconstruction.
Victoria this week became the first state to confirm plans to produce the vaccines, after Health Minister Greg Hunt said there was “high interest” in the technology in Australia.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese revealed on Thursday production of mRNA vaccines would be incorporated into the party’s $15bn national reconstruction fund.
“What that would do is create jobs here in Australia, but also boost our economy whilst making sure our health is looked after,” he said.
The move could see the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines added to Australia’s onshore production capacity, with the country currently only able to manufacture the AstraZeneca jab.
Experts have suggested yearly booster shots may be required to supplement the initial vaccine to deal with future variants of COVID-19.
“This is an issue that isn’t simply going to disappear and problem solved,” Mr Albanese said.
“Australia needs to look at ways in which we can look after the health of our population, whilst also getting economic and employment benefits.”
Mr Albanese said Labor would establish an independent board to assess submissions from pharmaceutical companies.
It comes after the federal government confirmed its interest in producing the cutting-edge technology in Australia.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday said the Commonwealth would be “seeking to support what we can in this area” in addition to the states.
“mRNA vaccines will be important for vaccine development into the future and Australia will be a part of that. My government will be a part of that. State governments will be a part of that,” he said.
Mr Morrison rejected suggestions from Labor the states had been forced to act by inaction in Canberra, saying the government had prioritised technology that was readily available at the beginning of the pandemic.
“A year ago, mRNA vaccines were a theory, largely, around the world but COVID … has made that a reality now,” he said.
“The mRNA is a much more complicated set up and so we moved on the one that could be done most swiftly.
“Certainly with mRNA vaccines that is a competency and a capability that I want Australia to have.”