Currently, Australia imports all mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna. The only COVID-19 vaccine manufactured domestically is AstraZeneca, which is an adenovirus vaccine.
Hunt did not speculate on the companies that will be chosen.
“I am expecting an announcement on the shortlist this week,” Hunt told reporters in Canberra on Sunday, Oct. 24.
The Australian government announced it was looking into the mRNA market since July of this year with many large pharmaceutical companies such as CSL, BioCina, Luina Bio and IDT bidding for a position.
Messenger RNA (mRNA) are genes that contain information for the formation of proteins and is made from DNA.
Viruses like COVID-19 carry mRNA and other proteins to enable them to enter our cells, where the viral proteins then convert the mRNA into viral DNA. The viral proteins then insert the viral DNA into our own human DNA. Thereby making its own genes a part of our own human genome so that when DNA adjacent to the viral DNA is activated, the viral DNA would also be activated to produce mRNA and proteins that would assemble to form the virus.
According to a recently published journal article in DOVE Press, researchers argue that the mRNA vaccine mimics this process without the proteins necessary for the conversion and insertion of viral genes into our own genome.
The mRNA introduced contains information for the specific COVID-19 spike protein, which is then translated by our own cell machinery into the viral protein.
Our immune system it is argued will then recognise the foreign proteins produced by the cells, thereby producing an immunological memory against it so upon an actual infection, there would be a more efficacious response.
This is the mechanism of action for both Moderna and Pfizer mRNA vaccines.
In contrast, the AstraZeneca vaccine is an adenovirus vaccine that carries the viral DNA for spike protein instead. When the adenovirus enters the cell, it will release the DNA for the spike protein which will then be converted to mRNA by our cell’s machinery and then translated to spike proteins which will then be recognised by the immune system, producing an immunological memory.
Meanwhile, a new advertisement campaign will begin to encourage further vaccination uptake for Indigenous Australians. Currently, over 60 percent of Indigenous Australians have received their first dose with 50 percent of them fully vaccinated.
New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT have all started lifting lockdown restrictions in recent weeks.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced a further lifting of restrictions for the coming Friday Oct. 29 when the state is expected to reach an 80 percent double-dosed vaccination rate.
Australia’s vaccine rollout co-ordinator Lieutenant General John Frewen said he was satisfied to see states putting deadlines on when they hope to ease restrictions.
“It gives people something to work towards but we are also seeing that is having an effect of helping galvanise people to step forward and get vaccinated in time for that,” Frewen said.
Victoria reported 1935 new infections and 11 deaths on Oct. 24, while NSW had 296 new cases and 4 deaths and the ACT announced 9 cases.