Australia expects to receive its first batches of a coronavirus vaccine as early as January.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Monday (September 7) that the country has struck a deal with Australia's own pharmaceutical giant CSL to manufacture two vaccines -- one produced by rival AstraZeneca and Oxford University, and another developed in CSL's labs at the University of Queensland.
The agreement comes as cases in the country's virus hotspot and second-most populous state, Victoria, have fallen to a ten-week low.
"Australia needs some hope today. And particularly in Victoria, they need some hope today. And so that is what we're here to deliver today. Today, we take another significant step to protect the health of Australians against the coronavirus pandemic. A $1.7 billion agreement for the supply and production of more than 80 million vaccine doses."
Australian health minister Greg Hunt added that scientists leading the development of both vaccines have advised that recent evidence suggests they will offer "multi-year protection".
Morrison says CSL is expected to deliver nearly 4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is currently in late-stage clinical trials in Britain, Brazil and South Africa, in January and February of next year.
AstraZeneca's candidate, AZD1222, is viewed as a frontrunner in the global race to deliver an effective vaccine to combat the virus.
The Australian government had announced last month that it planned to buy AZD1222, along with an agreement from CSL to manufacture it.
That plan was thrown into doubt once CSL announced its intention to manufacture its own vaccine shortly after.
But Morrison's announcement on Monday that Australia would also purchase the CSL drug if trials prove successful seemed to confirm a deal that would get both vaccines across the line.
The CSL vaccine is due to begin second stage clinical trials in late 2020, meaning the earliest it could hit the market would be mid-2021.