Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has said he’s now more hopeful that a coronavirus vaccine will be developed and that it will be provided to all Australians.
Mr Hunt confirmed on Saturday there were now 13,950 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 145 deaths in Australia.
But he said he was becoming increasingly optimistic about the possibility of a vaccine, despite having earlier reservations.
“Previously, I have been very cautious about the progress of vaccine development. Today I can say I am now more confident that we are moving closer to a vaccine that will help protect people all around the world and people in particular of course Australians,” Mr Hunt said on Saturday.
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Both he and Prime Minister Scott Morrison have spoken with their international colleagues about international licensing arrangements should a vaccine be developed, Mr Hunt said.
“I now believe we are close to a vaccine and I am confident that if that happens – knowing there is still no certainty – that we will be in a position to provide vaccines for all Australians.”
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Mr Hunt’s comments came days after researchers from Oxford University announced a breakthrough in their vaccine research, saying they’d received positive results from trials.
Research published in the journal Lancet claims an experimental vaccine — labelled ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 — was tested on more than 1000 people and prompted a protective immune response in those aged 18 to 55.
“The vaccine was safe and tolerated,” researchers wrote.
“Preliminary results from a phase 1/2 trial involving 1077 healthy adults found that vaccine induced strong antibody & T cell immune responses up to day 56 of the ongoing trial,” the Lancet wrote when announcing the breakthrough on social media on Monday night.
The Oxford University project is considered to be a frontrunner in the global race to find a vaccine for the deadly virus.
Meanwhile, one of the world’s leading COVID-19 experts, Dr Anthony Fauci, said scientists and public health officials expected to know by December or early next year which of the potential vaccines in development would be safe and effective.
Speaking in a live interview with the Washington Post this week, Dr Fauci — who is the White House coronavirus spokesman — said it was likely by the beginning of 2021 there would be “tens of millions of doses available”.
“I think as we get into 2021, several months in, that you would have vaccines that would be widely available,” he said.
Originally published as Minister ‘hopeful’ over virus vaccine