(Reuters) -Australia on Wednesday tapped Moderna Inc for 25 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, as it tries to speed up vaccination in people under 50 after deciding against AstraZeneca, whose jab has been linked to rare blood clots.
The country had last month doubled its order for Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine to 40 million shots, preferring it over AstraZeneca for its nearly 12 million people in that age group.
Moderna said it will supply 10 million shots against the original strain of the virus this year and 15 million doses of its updated variant booster candidate in 2022.
Australia’s isolation strategy has helped it so far prevent a large pandemic impact, but its rollout of authorized vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca has been slow.
It has already walked back on its goal to vaccinate nearly all of its 26 million population by year end.
The prospect of Australia not achieving the objective until 2022 gained ground on Tuesday as its annual budget showed an expectation that its borders would not reopen until mid-2022, building pressure on Prime Minister Scott Morrison who faces an election in a year.
A spokesman for Morrison did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Australia’s supply deal with Moderna is subject to regulatory nod for the booster shot as well as its original vaccine candidate, which is authorized for emergency use in individuals above 18 years of age in the United States.
The U.S. drugmaker said it expects to submit an application for provisional approval of its vaccine candidate to the Therapeutic Goods Administration of Australia shortly.
(Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru and Colin Packham in Canberra; Editing by Arun Koyyur)