Australia’s billion dollar coronavirus vaccine is SCRAPPED after trial participants returned HIV false positives – causing order for 51million doses of the home-grown jab to be terminated.
Australia’s potential coronavirus vaccine has been scrapped after several trial participants returned false positive HIV test results.
The University of Queensland had been developing the vaccine in partnership with pharmaceutical company CSL and the government had ordered 51 million doses.
But those plans have been abruptly halted over fears the false results could damage the public’s confidence in the COVID-19 vaccination program.
The government was left scrambling to make up the shortfall, ordering millions of potential doses in late-stage trials after the decision was made to pull the plug.
Australian vaccine scientist Nikolai Petrovsky had warned the government about the risk of including HIV in a vaccine months before the $1billion deal was signed.
He said the problem with the use of HIV was clear in the ‘hamster and mouse data’ but his advice was ignored.
Mr Petrovsky told The Australian the issues were with the level of antibodies they were generating against the clamp which were against HIV.
He said the early data suggested the vaccine itself was quite unstable.
‘Overall it just didn’t look like it was going to be a successful vaccine, that’s why we were surprised when the government committed millions of dollars to it, it just seemed disproportionate.’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed on Friday he urgently ordered more of two other vaccines currently in late-stage trials.
The government secured an extra 20 million doses of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine, taking the total to 53.8 million, and an extra 11 million doses of the Novavax vaccine, taking the total doses of that jab to 51 million.
CSL said the vaccine was safe and was proving effective, but that ‘significant changes would be needed to HIV testing procedures in the healthcare setting to accommodate the rollout of this vaccine’.
The UQ vaccine was still in the trial phase, but it was hoped it would be rolled out across Australia by mid-2021.
The vaccine, which used the COVID-19 spike protein and a ‘molecular clamp’, featured an HIV protein fragment.
The fragment posed ‘absolutely no health risk to people’ but was producing a partial antibody response in some participants, resulting in false positive tests for the virus.
It is understood health department secretary Brendan Murphy and acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly, had reviewed the findings this week and recommended ending the deal.
Both UQ and CSL will continue their research which they hope will help develop other vaccines in the future.