COVID-19

Officials work on vaccine supply for kids under five

The biotechnology company has revealed its paediatric vaccine could be supplied from August, if approved by Australia’s drug watchdog. Officials are trying to negotiate access under an existing vaccine agreement. But the Herald Sun understands that more taxpayer dollars could be spent to secure supply under a new vaccine deal.Asked if he had met with Moderna to discuss vaccine supply for kids, new Health Minister Mark Butler said: “The department meets with manufacturers it has arrangements with regularly in relation to the supply of Covid-19 vaccines”.Mr Butler did not directly respond when asked if he plans to meet with Moderna, or if he had had any discussions with the manufacturer.Instead, he said the Albanese Government was committed to ensuring all eligible Australians have access to Covid-19 vaccines. “Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approval and advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation are required prior to vaccine inclusion in the Covid-19 vaccine rollout,” Mr Butler said. Labor last year attacked the Morrison government for leaving vaccine supply talks to a top bureaucrat, after Pfizer requested a meeting with then-minister Greg Hunt. Asked in September why it wasn’t appropriate for health bureaucrats to start discussions with vaccine manufacturers, Mr Butler said: “Because we’re in a once in a century pandemic, an unprecedented crisis that required dramatic leadership from our political leaders”.Opposition health spokeswoman, Anne Ruston, said: “It seems quite astonishing that the minister would not have sought to meet with suppliers, particularly given the criticism that he and others in his government made of the previous government”.Moderna Australia general manager Michael Azrak said the company was in discussions with “the Australian government” about supply of its Covid vaccine for six-month to five year olds, as well as its new omicron containing bivalent booster for the adult population.“Both products are currently under evaluation by the TGA and if approved, Moderna will be able to supply these vaccines from August, which would see Australia being amongst the first countries in the world to have access to these new Covid-19 vaccines,” Mr Azrak said. The kids jab is not guaranteed to be included under the Commonwealth’s existing deal with the Moderna. This means taxpayers could have to foot the bill for more vaccines. Labor has previously said that Covid-related health spending had contributed to the federal budget being more dire than expected.The Herald Sun also asked Prime Minister Anthony Albanese if he had met or had discussions with Moderna.

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