Human clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine begin in Australia next week. Picture: AP
Human clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine begin in Australia next week. Picture: AP

First Aussie COVID-19 vaccine trials ready to begin

THE first Australians to take part in human clinical trials of a possible coronavirus vaccine will be dosed up with an experimental drug next week.

More than 100 volunteers in Brisbane and Melbourne are taking part in the trials for a vaccine being developed by the US biopharma Novavax.

Queensland firm Q-Pharm is conducting the trial of the Novavax candidate, NVX-CoV2373, as well as phase 1 trials of a vaccine being developed by University of Queensland researchers, The Australian reports.

Q-Pharm's principal investigator Paul Griffin said many vaccine candidates looked promising.

 

Dr Paul Griffith. Picture: Peter Cronin
Dr Paul Griffith. Picture: Peter Cronin

"It's really remarkable that we've been able to progress so quickly," Professor Griffin said.

"I think they're both really good candidates. If they weren't really promising they wouldn't even be contemplating trialling them in humans."

NVX-CoV2373 was created using nanoparticle technology to generate antigen derived from the distinctive coronavirus spike protein.

The vaccine aims to enhance the immune response and stimulate high levels of neutralising antibodies which are found naturally in people who have recovered from COVID-19.

Q-Pharm, which is part of the ­Nucleus Network phase 1 clinical research organisation, will now begin to choose healthy people from a pool of volunteers.

The development comes after another US firm, Moderna, announced positive results from initial clinical trials of its experimental vaccine, which it hopes to have to market by January.

It is moving to large-scale human trials in July.

 

A woman is injected with Moderna’s experimental vaccine as part of their initial trial. Picture: AP
A woman is injected with Moderna’s experimental vaccine as part of their initial trial. Picture: AP

In an interesting development following US President Donald Trump's shock announcement that he is taking the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine to prevent COVID-19, Australian ­researchers are recruiting 2000 healthcare workers to test whether it actually works to stave off the virus.

The US Food and Drug Administration has advised against using the drug to try to ward off coronavirus, while China has mockingly said Mr Trump is using "witchcraft" to lead his country.

 

President Donald Trump stunned reporters as he said he takes zinc and hydroxychloroquine. Picture: AP
President Donald Trump stunned reporters as he said he takes zinc and hydroxychloroquine. Picture: AP

"President Trump is leading the US's struggle against pandemic with witchcraft, and as a result, more than 90,000 people have died," Global Times editor Hu Xijin wrote in a now-deleted tweet. "If it were in China, the White House would have been burned down by angry people."

Fourteen hospitals across Australia are taking part in the ­hydroxychloroquine trial being run by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, The Australian reports.

Head of the trial Marc Pelligrini said test tube studies showed hydroxychloroquine can restrict the replication of the virus, raising hopes it could be used as a preventive treatment.

 

"Our number of cases is low in Australia, and this really gives us the perfect opportunity to dedicate our resources to being prepared for potentially a next wave," Professor Pelligrini said. "We need to be clear that this virus is not going to go away, it will be a threat for a very, very long time. And we really need to be prepared and discover new drugs that might be able to prevent people getting infected and getting sick."

Human trials of the UQ vaccine candidate are now just weeks away. A Dutch company is currently conducting preclinical studies of the UQ vaccine.

 

A chemist displays hydroxychloroquine tablets. Picture: AP
A chemist displays hydroxychloroquine tablets. Picture: AP

DON'T FORGET OTHER VACCINATIONS, PARENTS TOLD

Meanwhile, a US study has warned parents to make sure their children's vaccinations for other illnesses such as the mumps and measles are up to date as people come out of lockdown.

During the pandemic, the rates of childhood vaccinations have dropped significantly in the US as many parents have been reluctant to schedule well-child visits at their doctors' offices, for fear of contracting the coronavirus.

As a result, children have fallen behind on vaccinations for diseases like measles and pertussis, better known as whooping cough.

 

According to a new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccination rates in May for children under 2 years old in Michigan fell to alarming rates, including fewer than half of infants 5 months or younger.

Researchers warned falling vaccination rates could jeopardise the herd immunity that communities have built up against a disease like measles. Public health officials estimate that a community vaccination rate from 93 per cent to 95 per cent is necessary to prevent a widespread outbreak of measles.

 

TRUMP AWARDS $A1.2BN DRUG CONTRACT

President Donald Trump's administration awarded a contract worth up to $812 million for a new US company to manufacture drugs and drug ingredients to fight COVID-19 on American soil, aiming to end dependence on other countries.

The administration has been looking to build up the ability to produce drugs and their raw materials in the United States after the global pandemic exposed the industry's dependence on China and India for its supply chain.

"For far too long, we've relied on foreign manufacturing and supply chains for our most important medicines and active pharmaceutical ingredients while placing America's health, safety, and national security at grave risk," Peter Navarro, director of the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, said.

 

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said it had awarded a 4-year, $A540 million contract to privately-held Phlow Corp to make COVID-19 drugs, other essential drugs and their ingredients.

It comes as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says any vaccine to prevent the coronavirus should be distributed fairly without regard for wealth, and called for US crisis leadership based on competence and not Twitter posts.

"You have to know what you are doing now - not just look like what you are doing, not just sound like what you are doing," Mr Cuomo said without naming US President Donald Trump, a Republican who frequently attacks his critics on Twitter.

"You have to be smart. You are not going to tweet your way through this," added Mr Cuomo, a Democrat.

There was no immediate response from Mr Trump.

Mr Cuomo spoke following news on Monday that an experimental COVID-19 vaccine made by biotech company Moderna produced protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers.

"The vaccine must be available to all people," Mr Cuomo told a daily briefing on Tuesday.

"It can't be a situation where only the rich, only the privileged can get the vaccine because one company owns the rights and they can't produce enough for everyone." His comments came after the US mission in Geneva objected to parts of a World Health Organisation resolution on the pandemic.

 

 

 

Originally published as First Aussie COVID-19 vaccine trials ready to begin

Moderna Chief Medical Officer Dr Tal Zaks says the vaccine could be ready by January. Picture: Supplied
Moderna Chief Medical Officer Dr Tal Zaks says the vaccine could be ready by January. Picture: Supplied


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