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SA in vaccine manufacturing race

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The race to secure COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing in South Australia is heating up as the federal government prepares to make an approach to market for a local mRNA manufacturing plant in the next two weeks.

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The Commonwealth is backing a second COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing plant in Australia to shore up supplies, with pressure mounting on the State Government to ensure an Adelaide plant wins the contract.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said an approach to market would be launched within the next 10 days for companies to locally produce mRNA vaccines, such as those produced by Pfizer and Moderna.

Hunt expects at least one of the vaccines to be made in Australia by next year.

“I won’t make a guarantee on that, but I am confident that over the future period we will have mRNA production in Australia,” he told reporters on Thursday.

It comes after revelations on Wednesday that biotech firm BioCina believes it can start manufacturing advanced mRNA COVID-19 vaccines at an Adelaide facility “within 12 months”.

The biologics contract development and manufacturing firm owns a 4600 square metre facility in Thebarton which it says is “the most advanced facility of its kind in Australia”.

Premier Steven Marshall has already floated the proposal to Finance Minister Simon Birmingham, and the biotech firm has been in discussions with the federal health department according to the SA Senator.

But the Thebarton facility is set to face stiff competition from Melbourne’s CSL, whose manufacturing plant received a $50 million investment from the Victorian Government last month to prepare it for mRNA vaccine production.

CSL is already making the AstraZeneca vaccine in Melbourne.

The SA Labor Party is calling for an “aggressive” push for South Australia to secure the rights for local mRNA vaccine production.

“Having vaccine manufactured locally in South Australia would provide vaccine security, avoid global supply chain issues and create a more robust defence against future pandemics,” Opposition health spokesman Chris Picton said.

“We have a state-of-the-art facility that, with reasonable financial support from government to add key capabilities and expand capacity, can within months be producing mRNA COVID-19 vaccines to address the current local and global shortage.”

A clear flow of supply will be needed as GPs begin the rollout to all Australians aged over 50 from Monday.

Just under 2.9 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Australia, including more than 214,000 in SA.

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