Queensland University’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate has been scrapped from Australia’s vaccine plan after returning false-positive HIV results.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the announcement during a press conference outside Parliament House this morning.
“Our vaccine strategy and our vaccine policy had identified four vaccines that we believed, based on the scientific advice, had the potential to go through to the end of Stage 3 trials and be available here in Australia,” he said.
“At no stage, can I assure you, that we believed that all four of those vaccines would likely get through that process.”
Morrison said the decision was made yesterday by the National Security Committee of Cabinet.
“The University of Queensland vaccine will not be able to proceed based on the scientific advice, and that will no longer feature as part of Australia’s vaccine plan,” he said.
The Prime Minister told reporters the decision allowed the government to increase Australia’s access to other vaccine candidates.
“And so we are increasing our production and purchase of AstraZeneca vaccines from 33.8 million to 53.8 million, and we’re increasing our access to the Novavax vaccine from 40 million to 51 million,” he said.
“So that’s an extra 20 million doses of AstraZeneca, and an extra 11 million doses of Novavax. The AstraZeneca vaccine, of course, is manufactured here in Melbourne by CSL.”
At the same press conference, Minister for Health Greg Hunt said the decision not to proceed with the university’s candidate was mutual.
“The issue, which by mutual agreement with CSL led to the decision not to proceed to stage three trials and, therefore, not to move to a purchase, is that there was the risk of false-positive HIV results,” Hunt said.
“They are false. It comes from the protein that was used.
“The scientific advice is that the risk to vaccine confidence was the principal issue here, and we made the decision unanimously as a National Security Committee, the scientific advice was unanimous, the agreement with CSL not to proceed 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 Aussies will see the jab until at least March 2021.
Featured image source: Facebook/Scott Morrison