The University of Queensland (UQ) vaccine will no longer be part of Australia’s CCP virus, or novel coronavirus, vaccine plan after some trial participants returned false positive results for HIV.
The federal government has cancelled its order of 50 million doses from UQ/CSL following scientific advice.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Friday morning that the government will now focus on other vaccine candidates.
“We are increasing our production and purchase of AstraZeneca vaccine 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.
The extra 20 million AstraZeneca doses will be produced by CSL in Melbourne, Australia.
Morrison said safety and health have been at the heart of the government’s response to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, and for this reason, it had invested in other vaccines, including Novavax.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the vaccine rollout in 2021 is an important part of providing insurance and protection for Australians.
He said the government had prepared its contracts with vaccine developers for the possibility that some trials wouldn’t work out, and for the need to increase or cancel some orders.
Hunt said that the upside was there were 31 million new vaccines purchased for Australia, which might allow a “slightly earlier rollout” in 2021.
The decision was made after the University of Queensland and biotechnology company CSL abandoned trials of their CCP virus vaccine candidate.
CSL said in a statement that while phase 1 trials of the vaccine v451 amongst 216 participants showed it was safe, it had “following agreement with the Australian government” decided not to progress the trials.
“The phase 1 data showed the generation of antibodies directed towards the ‘molecular clamp’ component of the vaccine,” CSL said on Friday. “These antibodies interfere with certain HIV diagnostic assays.”
CSL said blood samples from study participants were tested after vaccination and it was found that these molecular clamp antibodies did cause a false positive.
“Follow up tests confirmed that there was no HIV virus present, just a false positive on certain HIV tests,” CSL said. “There is no possibility the vaccine causes infection.”
“The government was very deliberate in not just backing one vaccine, because as we know, there are many cases where there is a problem through the trial process or there is some other issue,” Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told Nine’s Today show. “We … made a prudent decision to back a number of vaccines.”
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who joined other state and territory leaders in Canberra on Friday for a meeting of the national cabinet, said the UQ/CSL outcome was disappointing.
“Of course, there is going to be some winners and losers,” she told Nine. “It is very, very disappointing about the UQ vaccine but there are a lot of other candidates out there.”
The government had previously said it wanted to start rolling out a vaccine to the Australian community early in the new year.
AAP contributed to this article.