Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a deal to acquire more than 84 million doses of potential coronavirus vaccines.
Morrison, Health Minister Greg Hunt, and Karen Andrews, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, on Monday announced vaccine deals with the University of Queensland and Australian biotechnology company CSL, and also with the University of Oxford and pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.
Under the deals, which are worth a combined 1.7 billion Australian dollars (1.2 billion US dollars), Australia will receive the first doses of candidate vaccines being developed by the universities if trials prove successful.
"Australians will gain free access to a COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 if trials prove successful," Morrison said in a statement on Monday.
"By securing the production and supply agreements, Australians will be among the first in the world to receive a safe and effective vaccine, should it pass late-stage testing.
"There are no guarantees that these vaccines will prove successful, however, the agreement puts Australia at the top of the queue if our medical experts give the vaccines the green light."
Under the agreement, more than 84.8 million vaccine doses will be provided for the Australian population, with early access to 3.8 million doses of the University of Oxford vaccine in January and February 2021.
According to the statement, the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine "is world leading," having entered Phase three trials.
And the University of Queensland (UQ) has recently announced that pre-clinical testing showed the vaccine is promising and already effective in animal models.
Morrison, who has previously expressed optimism that a vaccine could be available early 2021, in August said that a vaccine would be made "as mandatory as you can possibly make it" but later walked back from that suggestion.
"It's not going to be compulsory to have the vaccine," he said.
"There are no mechanisms for 'compulsory'. We can't hold someone down and make them take it."