Australia considered a rollout of a coronavirus vaccine no sooner than mid-2021 a best-case scenario in its pandemic planning that would save the economy tens of billions of dollars, the treasurer said.
The Treasury and Health Departments developed economic modelling based on an assumption that a vaccine would be widely available in Australia towards the end of next year, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.
"These are very uncertain times and as a government, we have taken every step possible to give Australia the best possible chance of getting a vaccine," Frydenberg told the National Press Club.
Treasury modelling doesn't contemplate a vaccine becoming available in Australia early next year. An early vaccine is regarded as one that is rolled out from July 1, providing certainty to households and businesses while promoting consumption and investment.
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This so-called upside scenario also assumes that international students would return to Australian universities late next year due to the vaccine. Hundreds of thousands of students from overseas have made the Australian universities sector one of the nation's biggest earners of foreign currency.
The scenario would boost Australian economic activity by A$34 billion above the current forecast in the June quarter of 2022. Economic growth would be 1.5 percentage points higher in the 2021-22 fiscal year than the 4.75 per cent currently forecast.
Australia has allowed for an earlier vaccine rollout with doses manufactured locally under deals struck with two pharmaceutical companies.