On the basis of scientific advice, the Australian Government has secured an additional 20 million doses of the promising AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, strengthening Australia’s position for whole-of-population vaccination.
This will mean a total delivery of 53.8 million Astra Zeneca vaccine doses in 2021, covering the whole of population requirements.
The extra 20 million doses of the Astra Zeneca vaccine will be produced within Australia by CSL.
Our advice remains that Australia remains on track for first vaccinations in March, and completion of whole of population in 2021.
In addition, a further 11 million doses of the Novavax vaccine will be purchased, bringing the total for this vaccine to 51 million. This provides an additional whole-of-population vaccine for Australia if proven safe and effective.
A purchasing agreement is also in place for the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, with 10 million doses scheduled for early 2021.
The Australian Government is also part of the international COVAX Facility which allows the purchases of over 25 million doses of a range of other potential vaccines.
Investment in the portfolio of vaccines is based on advice from the expert Science and Industry Technical Advisory Group (SITAG), which is continually monitoring and assessing each of the vaccines to ensure that Australia remains well prepared for the roll-out when the regulatory health and safety approvals have been granted.
As a result of further medical advice to the Australian Government, the University of Queensland’s research into a possible COVID-19 vaccine which has undergone phase one clinical trials will not be proceeding to phase three.
As part of all clinical trials, assessments are made before expanding to the next phase of research.
This decision is based on how the vaccine interacts with a testing system and has not been based on the safety or effectiveness of the vaccine candidate.
The evidence from the University of Queensland’s phase one clinical trials shows the vaccine to be safe – and that it produces a strong immune response able to neutralise the COVID-19 virus.
This is something the University of Queensland researchers should be very proud of.
Further work is required to address the discrepancies occurring in test results due to the construction of the vaccine.
Australia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic remains the envy of the world – and we are making decisions, based on best medical advice, about vaccines, in our national interest.
We have deliberately not put all of our eggs in the one vaccine basket.
Our Government has strong confidence a COVID-19 vaccine is likely to be available to Australians from as early as next March and that we can achieve our goal of providing a vaccine to all Australians who seek to be vaccinated before the end of 2021.
The University of Queensland utilised a “molecular clamp” vaccines design based on a highly promising technological platform, and has the potential be used to vaccinate against a number of potential viruses.
As part of the vaccine’s design, the university’s researchers included a small fragment of a protein taken from the HIV virus, known as glycoprotein 41 (gp41). This has been used to create a “molecular clamp” to hold the vaccine’s synthetic virus in place.
Although the university’s researchers have confirmed the protein fragment poses absolutely no health risk to people who have taken the vaccine, they have identified a partial antibody response to it among trial participants.
This has the potential to interfere with some HIV screening tests that look for these antibodies – leading to a false positive test result.
It is this impact on HIV screening – and in the context of other promising vaccine candidates becoming available – that has led to the Government’s decision. The decision was based on the unanimous advice of SITAG.
Importantly, pathology testing that directly looks for the HIV virus has confirmed negative results for the trial participants who have taken the vaccine.
Participants were informed the protein formed part of the vaccine before they consented to taking part in the trial – and HIV screening tests were carried out before and after vaccination.
Participants will continue to be monitored to establish if the antibody response to the protein decreases over time.
The Government will continue to support UQ is in its ongoing research due to this new platform providing such a promising breakthrough in vaccinations.