January 23, 2021

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Australia live news: Australian vaccine trials abandoned due to HIV false positives

Australia had ordered 51m doses of the UQ/CSL vaccine. Follow latest updates Follow our global...

Australia had ordered 51m doses of the UQ/CSL vaccine. Follow latest updates

9.18pm GMT

The secretary of the federal health department, Prof Brendan Murphy, said the CSL/UQ vaccine was “likely to be a promising vaccine” but the risk of an HIV false positive could undermine public confidence, so the trial was abandoned.

It was likely to work. But we knew that we didn’t want to have any issues with confidence, and this false-positive test may have caused some confusion and lack of confidence, but it was a very, very good technology, it was looking like it was going to make antibodies, and it probably would have worked very well as a vaccine, but we can’t have any issues with confidence, and we are — as a nation now, with a good portfolio of vaccines — able to make these decisions to best protect the Australian people.

I think the risk of actually getting a false-positive was seen to be extremely low at the outset. Everyone was very surprised at the unexpected prevalence of the false-positive. It’s only a small portion of the HIV protein that’s in the vaccine as the molecular clamp. The modelling at the time thought it was a very low theoretical risk on that basis — that’s why people were informed of that risk. But it was very surprising to CSL and UQ the incidence of the false-positives. So it was very unexpected.

9.14pm GMT

Greg Hunt says Australia now has one of the highest rates of vaccine purchases and availability to population in the world.

That’s 53.8m AustraZeneca units, enough to cover the whole of the Australian population, 51m Novavax units, also enough to cover the whole of the population, 10m Pfizer units, and 2.5m units under the Covax facility. So, 140m units all up:

The net result of the decisions taken and the next evolution of the scientific advice is that we will have strengthened our position in two vaccines, and discontinued the process in relation to one vaccine which is, of course, the University of Queensland. The final outcome from all of that is that there is the potential for slightly earlier completion of the vaccine rollout for Australians in 2021. So that net result is a very important outcome for Australians.

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