Australia expects COVID-19 vaccination is still a year away

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) - Australia did not see the introduction of a coronavirus vaccine as a best-case scenario in its pandemic planning until mid-2021 at the earliest, which would save the economy tens of billions of dollars, the treasurer said on Wednesday.
The Treasury Department and the Department of Health developed an economic model based on the assumption that a vaccine would be widely available in Australia by the end of next year, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.
"These are very uncertain times and we as the government have taken all possible steps to give Australia the best possible chance of a vaccine," Frydenberg told the National Press Club.
Treasury modeling does not foresee that a vaccine will be available in Australia early next year. An early vaccine is considered to be a vaccine that will be launched from July 1, providing security to homes and businesses while stimulating consumption and investment.
This so-called upward scenario also assumes that international students would return to Australian universities due to the vaccine at the end of next year. Hundreds of thousands of overseas students have made the Australian university sector one of the largest foreign exchange earners in the country.
The scenario would grow Australian economic activity in the June quarter of 2022 by A $ 34 billion ($ 24 billion) above the current forecast. Economic growth in the 2021/22 financial year would be 1.5 percentage points higher than the currently forecast 4.75%.
Researchers are working to develop more than 170 potential COVID-19 vaccines. A survey of 28 mostly U.S. and Canadian vaccine experts published in June in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that most were pessimistic that a vaccine would be available before mid-2021 but thought September or October would be achievable.
Frydenberg announced a series of pandemic measures on Tuesday that would create a record deficit of AU $ 214 billion (USD 153 billion) in the current fiscal year. Assuming a vaccine will be available by late July 2021, annual deficits are expected to shrink over the next fiscal year and beyond.
"We are all hopeful ... that we will find a vaccine and we made that assumption based on the end of next year, but as there are developments in health and the global community we will continue to update our position" said Frydenberg on Wednesday.
"This pandemic is very unsafe," he added.
Australia has approved an earlier launch of vaccines with doses made locally under agreements with two pharmaceutical companies.
If studies prove successful, the University of Oxford / AstraZeneca and the University of Queensland / CSL will provide more than 84.8 million doses of vaccine to the Australian population, made almost entirely in Melbourne, with early access to 3.8 million doses of the University of Oxford vaccine did in January and February 2021.
The government is committed to making every vaccine available to Australia's 26 million people free of charge.

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