Two vaccine candidates are of particular interest to Australia.
The first is a vaccine being developed by Oxford University in the UK, in collaboration with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and manufacturing company CSL.9
The second is being developed by the University of Queensland with CSL preparing to manufacture 51 million doses of the vaccine (V451) for the Australian public by mid-2021.7,10
In July 2020, Oxford University researchers reported promising results in their Phase I/II trials. Results from over 1000 healthy volunteers indicated there were no early safety concerns and the volunteers produced a strong immune response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.11,12
On 7 September 2020, the Australian government announced an agreement with Oxford University and AstraZeneca for early access to their vaccine (AZD1222),10 promising that Australians could be among the first in the world to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.9 The agreement was for the expected manufacture of 30 million doses.9,10
I read that one of the trials was paused. What's happening now?
On 9 September 2020, AstraZeneca announced it had ‘voluntarily paused’ the Phase III clinical trial to allow a review of a ‘potentially unexplained illness’ one study participant had suffered.13,14
Pausing a clinical trial to investigate potential side effects is a relatively common occurrence. The volume of media attention this pause generated highlights the speed at which research and development is travelling and the urgency of government efforts to secure vaccines for our population.
The Oxford University vaccine trial has now resumed. On 12 September 2020, AstraZeneca reported that the COVID-19 vaccine (AZD1222) trials had resumed in the UK, following confirmation by the Medicines Health Regulatory Authority (MHRA) that it was safe to do so.15