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92.9fm Regional News

  • Writer's pictureAlayna Fong

Vaccine trials underway in Armidale

The University of New England’s Medical Centre in Armidale is trialling the first Covid-19 vaccine developed in the Southern Hemisphere.


The vaccine has been developed by Adelaide-based company Vaxine Pty Ltd and uses recombinant protein technology which is a manufacturing approach already used for commercial vaccines against influenza and human papilloma virus.


While the vaccine is already approved overseas, the current trial will provide important data on the vaccine’s use as a booster and it is hoped this Australian trial will accelerate local access to a locally developed vaccine as their chosen booster.


Australia has a long history of successful community vaccination programs such as the smallpox vaccine in the 1930s and polio in the 1950’s. Protein-based vaccines, such as the hepatitis B vaccine, have over the last four decades been safely administered to billions of people.


Dr Joe Turner, who is coordinating the local trials of this protein-based Covid-19 vaccine at the UNE Medical Centre in Armidale, hopes that a safe and effective locally-developed protein vaccine will encourage more people to come forward to have a booster.


“In running this trial, we're hoping to get people boosted with an Australian-developed protein-based Covid-19 vaccine, people who may otherwise have concerns or contraindications to other Covid-19 vaccines,” Dr Turner says.


“We’ve already had people offering to drive five hours to take part in this trial.


“While the vaccines might not stop people getting infected, they have been shown to reduce the risk of severe disease and hospitalisation. People need to be aware that Covid-19 vaccine immunity generally wanes quite rapidly, making timely boosters important to maintain protection.”


UNE’s Medical Centre is one of only two trial sites in NSW. The aim is to recruit up to 200 participants, who will have a single booster vaccine dose and just need to provide before-and-after blood tests for measurement of antibody levels to see their response to the vaccine.


Although the trial vaccine has already been approved overseas, Dr Turner says it isn’t part of Australia’s vaccination schedule, so those who participate in the trial will not for now have it recorded against their official Covid-19 vaccination record.


“We don’t know if and when the trial vaccine might be recognised as part of the vaccine schedule in Australia. This recognition is not about the vaccine’s safety or effectiveness which already has good peer-reviewed data supporting its use, but is to do with the complex process of paperwork, regulatory review and fees required before any vaccine or drug is able to be sold for use in Australia. ”


UNE's Medical Centre in Armidale is one of only two trial sites in NSW.


UNE has from the start of the pandemic been committed to supporting the New England region through the medical emergency.


When the pandemic’s severity became apparent, UNE reallocated staff to supporting a series of vaccination clinics around the region that ultimately delivered about 7500 vaccine doses to locals while relieving pressure on GP surgeries.


Anyone interested in participating in the trial or requesting further information can contact admin@vaxine.net

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