‘We will be back’: UQ urged to restart COVID vaccine

Australia's leading infectious diseases expert has urged University of Queensland researchers to restart the development of a COVID-19 vaccine while the nation grows its stockpile of 140 million jabs.

UQ and biotechnology giant CSL shocked the nation in December after revealing it would not continue developing a vaccine after Phase 1 trials induced false-positive HIV test results in some of the 216 volunteers.

However, Australia's leading infections diseases expert Robert Booy has urged UQ to continue developing the vaccine despite the setback.

He said it was "unlucky" the protein used in UQ's trials had induced false HIV results but said researchers must push on using a substitute protein.

"They have a good technology and it's worth having another go," he said.

"If we have a vaccine that's developed in Australia we can behave like the developed country we are.

"They have the chance of making something Australia will truly cherish."

The Commonwealth's plan to vaccinate Australia's whole population by October received a boost this week after it sourced another 10 million doses of the Pfizer immunisation - taking the total national stockpile to 150 million doses.

UQ Professor Paul Young. Picture: Liam Kidston.
UQ Professor Paul Young. Picture: Liam Kidston.

UQ vaccine co-lead Paul Young this week released the university's Phase 1 vaccine data for peer review.

He revealed, on social media, it "really does look good compared to others".

"We will be back," he wrote.

UQ declined to comment on the trial data.

In December Professor Young said it was possible to re-engineer the vaccine but said the team did not have the luxury of time.

"Doing so would set back development by another 12 or so months, and while this is a tough decision to take, the urgent need for a vaccine has to be everyone's priority," he said.

Professor Booy acknowledged regulatory agencies were unable to pass UQ's vaccine after it was found to cause false HIV results - but said the university should continue developing its immunisation now the nation had sought Pfizer jabs.

"Taking a parallel approach using the same technology and using a different protein is worthwhile," he said.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has ticked off on the Pfizer vaccine, allowing it to be imported from overseas.

From the end of this month frontline workers, such as those in hotel quarantine, and health staff will be the first to be vaccinated.

Attention then turns to aged care staff, seniors and other vulnerable communities.

Originally published as 'We will be back': UQ urged to restart COVID vaccine