Australia has abandoned its $750 million coronavirus vaccine project after the injection gave some people false-positive HIV test results.
The country was one of many attempting to develop a vaccine in response to the coronavirus outbreak, with the University of Queensland and the Australian biotech firm CSL conducting clinical trials on a prototype.
The project was underway with the backing of the Australian government and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, but in a press conference today, December 11, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the projected had been terminated.
You can hear more about the situation below:
Health Minister Greg Hunt explained that the Queensland trial vaccine ‘triggered an antibody response that could interfere with HIV screening’.
Scientists behind the trial vaccine had used parts of a protein found in HIV, which triggered antibodies commonly seen during HIV testing. In turn, several people who were trialling the vaccine tested positive for HIV, but did not actually have the virus.
Though the results were false, Morrison stressed that there could not be ‘any issues with confidence’ when it comes to the medicine. CSL and the University of Queensland said fixing the flaw would take about a year, prompting the decision to drop the trial.
We are as a nation now, with a good portfolio of vaccines, able to make these decisions to best protect the Australian people.
Australia had previously agreed to buy 51 million doses of the vaccine, but after abandoning the project the government will instead increase orders of other vaccines, including 120 million more doses of the Pfizer shot, 20 million more shorts of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and 11 million extra doses of the Novavax vaccine, Business Insider reports.
While stage one trials of the vaccine prompted unplanned results, the University of Queensland noted that it had been showing promising signs in combating coronavirus.
In a statement, it explained that the vaccine ‘elicits a robust response towards the virus and has a strong safety profile’.
The university continued:
However, following consultation with the Australian Government, CSL will not progress the vaccine candidate to Phase 2/3 clinical trials.
There is no possibility the vaccine causes [HIV] infection, and routine follow up tests confirmed there is no HIV virus present.
Brendan Murphy, secretary of Australia’s Department of Health, said the vaccine was ‘likely to work’, but the false-positive test may have ’caused some confusion and lack of confidence’ that may have put people off getting the much-needed vaccine.
The UK was the first country to start rolling out a vaccine after it was approved by the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]