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Anti-vaxxers protest against coronavirus vaccine

Scott Morrison has said he will make a coronavirus vaccine ‘as mandatory as possible’. 

The government on Tuesday signed a deal to bring Oxford University’s vaccine to Australia as soon as it is approved, which could be at the end of this year.

As the news broke, thousands of anti-vaxxers bombarded politicians with online abuse and said they would refuse to take it.

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But in an interview on Melbourne radio station 3AW, Mr Morrison said he would make the jab compulsory.

‘There are always exemptions for any vaccine on medical grounds but that should be the only basis,’ he said.

‘I mean we’re talking about a pandemic that has destroyed the global economy and taken the lives of hundreds of thousands all around the world and over 450 Australians here.

‘We need the most extensive and comprehensive response to this to get Australia back to normal,’ he said.

Asked if he was prepared for a backlash from anti-vaxxers, the Prime Minister said: ‘I’m used to that, I was the minister that established no jab, no pay.

‘My view on this is pretty clear and not for turning. You have to do it for yourself, your family and for your fellow Australians.’

Children have been required to take vaccines to attend school since 1998, unless their parents are granted an exemption.

Under the no jab, no pay scheme in 2015, the government removed exemptions for conscientious objectors. 

Some scientists feared that making vaccines compulsory could make people angry and reduce immunisation rates but rates slowly ticked up around the country.

The Prime Minister today said he wanted to reach a 95 per cent coronavirus vaccination rate in Australia. 

Asked in a press conference today how he will make sure everyone takes the vaccine, the Prime Minister said: ‘We’ll take those issues as they present and consider what steps are necessary at that time.’ 

Some people are unable to take the vaccine for legitimate medical reasons. Everyone else must be vaccinated to protect them, he said. 

Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the first step would be to encourage people to take the vaccine voluntarily. 

The elderly and healthcare workers are likely to be prioritised as the vaccine is steadily rolled out, the Prime Minster said. 

Infectious diseases expert Raina MacIntyre of UNSW said she doesn’t agree with compulsory vaccination. 

‘It should not be compulsory. Depending on how effective the vaccine is, we would need 70 to 90 per cent of people vaccinated for herd immunity,’ she told Daily Mail Australia. 

On Tuesday night Science Minister Karen Andrews said she was ‘attacked’ by protesters on Facebook and slammed them for spreading conspiracy theories.

‘Last night, my social media pages were attacked by anti-vax protestors,’ she wrote in a Facebook post.

‘While I support freedom of choice, in my role as Science Minister I’m not prepared to allow these people to promote pseudoscience.’

Under the government’s deal all 25 million Australians will be able to get injected for free just weeks after the Oxford vaccine is approved.

The vaccine, licensed by UK drug firm AstraZeneca, is in phase three trails on thousands of people in the UK, Brazil and South Africa.

Earlier trials found it generated a strong immune response and a four-fold increase in antibodies against coronavirus in 95 per cent of participants.

The federal government has signed a so-called ‘Letter of Intent’ with AstraZeneca in which the firm agrees to hand the vaccine over to Australia as soon as it is approved.

Australia will then make millions of doses on home soil and distribute them across the country.

The government is in talks with the nation’s biggest health company, CSL, to make sure enough doses can be made as fast as possible.

AstraZeneca has already agreed to share the vaccine with the UK, the European Union and international organisations including the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. 

Australia will later sign a final formal agreement with the company, which will include details about the distribution, timing and price of the vaccine. 

Scott Morrison said: ‘The Oxford vaccine is one of the most advanced and promising in world, and under this deal we have secured early access for every Australian.

‘If this vaccine proves successful we will manufacture and supply vaccines straight away under our own steam and make it free for 25 million Australians.’

The government is also negotiating to buy vaccines from other developers if the Oxford vaccine does not work out. 

There are currently 167 vaccine candidates in pre-clinical and clinical trials around the world, including 29 undergoing clinical trials in humans.

There are three candidates in Australia – at the University of Queensland, the University of Melbourne and Flinders University in Adelaide – all of which have completed phase one trials.

Mr Morrison said: ‘There is no guarantee that this, or any other, vaccine will be successful, which is why we are continuing our discussions with many parties around the world while backing our own researches at the same time to find a vaccine.’  

Australia is expected to spend billions of dollars on researching, buying and producing a vaccine.

Before the announcement of the deal, Labor’s health spokesman Chris Bowen slammed the government for taking too long to sign an agreement.

‘I am concerned Australia is way behind the game when it comes to getting access to the vaccine,’ he said on Tuesday afternoon. 

‘It is incumbent on the government to take more steps – urgently – to ensure that we have those advanced supply agreements in place.’

The United States has six advance supply agreements, the UK has five, Japan and Indian have three, Indonesia, Argentina, Brazil and South Korea have one.    

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