Australia not worried about vaccine trial pause

SYDNEY: Australia is not worried about AstraZeneca Plc’s decision to put on hold its Covid-19 vaccine trial, its deputy chief medical officer said on Wednesday, as daily cases nudged higher in the country’s coronavirus hot spot.

AstraZeneca on Tuesday said it has paused a late-stage trial of one of the leading Covid-19 vaccine candidates after an unexplained illness in a study participant.

The nature of the case and when it happened were not detailed, although the participant is expected to recover, according to Stat News, which first reported the news.

“With the information that I have got at the moment, I am not worried about it,” Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth told Sky News, adding the hold on trials does not mean the vaccine “is off the table”.

“In some respects, this is a very positive thing because it shows that despite the accelerated vaccine development, safety is the priority of the clinical trialists and investigators.”

Coatsworth said Australia like many other governments has invested in several coronavirus vaccine candidates, “knowing not all of them will get through”.

AstraZeneca’s decision to place the trial on hold comes after a pledge from nine leading US and European vaccine developers on Tuesday to uphold scientific safety and efficacy standards for their vaccines despite the urgency to contain the pandemic.

Australia on Monday said it would get the first doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in January 2021 if trials proved successful after reaching a preliminary deal in August.

It had also signed an agreement on a Covid-19 vaccine being developed by the University of Queensland.

Both these vaccines will be manufactured locally by CSL Ltd.

Australia’s coronavirus hot spot of Victoria on Wednesday, meanwhile, reported its biggest rise in daily cases in three days as the state boosted its contact tracing programme to ease the spread of the virus.

Victoria, which is at the centre of Australia’s second wave of coronavirus outbreak, now accounts for about 75% of Australia’s 26,450 Covid-19 cases and 90% of its 781 deaths.

The state reported 76 new cases and 11 deaths from the virus in the last 24 hours.