Clinical trials of a COVID-19 vaccine being developed by the University of Queensland in partnership with biotech company CSL have been abandoned after trial participants returned false-positive HIV test results.
The vaccine is one of four the Federal Government had committed to purchasing, and agreements had been made to secure 51 million doses of the vaccine.
In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange, CSL said it would not progress with trials, however, stressed the vaccine had a “strong safety profile”.
CSL also said participants were told before the trial started that the vaccine could interfere with certain HIV diagnostic tests.
“The potential for this cross-reaction had been anticipated prior to the commencement of the trial,” it said.
Yesterday the Prime Minister told reporters the decision allowed the government to increase Australia’s access to other vaccine candidates.
Therefore, the government has now increased the production and purchase of AstraZeneca vaccines from 33.8 million to 53.8 million, and they have also increased access to the Novavax vaccine from 40 million to 51 million. That is an extra 20 million doses of AstraZeneca and an extra 11 million doses of Novavax.
At the same press conference, Minister for Health Greg Hunt said the decision not to proceed with the university’s candidate was mutual.
Meanwhile, Pfizer has released a statement confirming the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had voted in favour of granting emergency use of the vaccine, taking the country one step closer to distributing the jab.
This comes not long after the UK administered the first official Pfizer COVID-19 shot to a 90-year-old woman after giving the vaccine emergency approval on 2 December.
However, Australia’s Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, said last week that while the government welcomes the UK’s emergency approval of the vaccine, he does not think Australians will see the vaccine until at least March 2021.
This setback showed the missteps that can inevitably occur when scientists, during a pandemic that has killed more than 1.5 million people, rush to condense the usual years-long process to develop vaccines into a matter of months.
Written by Joe Cusmano