Aussie vaccine beats overseas rivals
The world rejoiced when American pharmaceutical Pfizer confirmed its coronavirus vaccine was the first to clear interim clinical trials.
The giant drug maker's product outperformed expectations and proved 90 per cent effective in stopping people from falling ill.
But its side effects are inconclusive, meaning the elderly, children and those who are pregnant could miss out on the initial distribution of the vaccine.
The vaccine being produced by the University of Queensland, however, is not only producing virus-neutralising antibodies, but it is also proving to be especially effective on the elderly.
Details of the groundbreaking production will be revealed on Friday when Health Minister Greg Hunt tours the Brisbane-based laboratory.
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He said the latest data from the University of Queensland research showed the vaccine was ahead of schedule, according to The Courier-Mail.
"Their initial lead is that the vaccine through the phase 1 trials is proving to be safe and, just as importantly, it's showing a positive response, which means it has got neutralising antibodies," he said.
"Especially in the elderly. The elderly cohort is responding well."
Mr Hunt said the UQ vaccine was one of the first two acquired by the federal government, which has bought 51 million units - enough for each Australian to receive a two-shot booster.
"It's fundamental to our distribution here but also our ability to support countries in the region, which is critical to our safety and our regional interests," he said.
The government has also purchased 10 million units of the Pfizer vaccine but this will be manufactured overseas, while local biomedical giant CSL will produce the UQ product.
Australia's former chief medical officer, Dr Brendan Murphy, said the Pfizer vaccine was a "very exciting technology".
"MRNA vaccines are very different technology and we don't have that production capability, certainly not at a commercial scale in Australia," Dr Murphy said.
"So the decision, as part of the diversified strategy, we thought 10 million of this vaccine would be a good first option (for Australia).
"If this turns out to be the most successful vaccine, obviously there's a capacity to buy more. And there is the capacity, we are exploring the potential, of whether we could set up local manufacturing, but that isn't a prospect at the moment. It's something we have been looked at.
"As the Prime Minister said, we are continually being nimble about our approach to vaccines, so we're looking at all options of purchase, all options of manufacturing, but this gives us the best diversified position at the moment."
Originally published as Why Aussie vaccine beats overseas rivals