22 Mar 2020

Queensland govt's 'radical approach' to fast-track Covid-19 vaccine

9:48 pm on 22 March 2020

The Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced a $AU17 million ($NZ17.3m) package to fast-track a coronavirus vaccine developed in the state.

A lab technician holding blood tube test.

A lab technician holding blood tube test. Photo: 123rf.com

She said the funding would support the University of Queensland (UQ) as the only Australian organisation and one of six world-wide to be tasked to develop a vaccine against Covid-19 by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

It included:

  • $AU10 million ($NZ10.17m) from the Queensland government
  • $AU3 million ($NZ3.05m) from the Federal Government
  • $AU3.5 million ($NZ3.56m) from the Paul Ramsay Foundation

"This is now becoming a serious issue here in Queensland and a serious issue here in Australia and we've gotta throw everything we've got at it, so $10 million today is a great step forward out of a $17 million package," Palaszczuk said.

"Queensland is a world leader when it comes to research and the progress that is being made here is very encouraging."

The money would allow researchers to bring a large-scale manufacture of the coronavirus vaccine forward to run parallel with clinical trials.

UQ Professor Paul Young described the work as a "radical approach".

"We are living through remarkable times and remarkable times sometimes need radical ideas, and that is what the funding announced today is about.

"The typical timeline for vaccine development has been thrown out the window, with many referring to the possibility of a vaccine in 18 months.

"A vaccine is required even sooner than this.

"We're not cutting any corners in ensuring this vaccine is going to be safe and efficacious in humans, we will go through those clinical studies, but we should be ready to deploy as soon as that is done.

"With this approach we should carve about six months off our timeline."

US actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson are two of more than 200 people who have tested positive for Covid-19 in Queensland

Photo: Copyright (C) 2020 Patrick Hamilton. All rights reserved.

Queensland Innovation Minister Kate Jones said if successful, there could be a coronavirus vaccine available for emergency use among healthcare workers and vulnerable populations in early 2021.

'Stay in your village'

The funding announcement came as 38 more people tested positive to coronavirus in the state, bringing the total number of Queensland's Covid-19 cases to 259.

"We want to contain this virus as long as we can so we can develop a vaccine and ultimately save lives," Health Minister Steven Miles said.

He said the cases were concentrated in south-east Queensland among those returning from overseas where coronavirus had already spread.

The Premier is urging people not to travel outside their immediate community except for work.

"In the coming weeks and months, I need everyone to stay near your village.

"That means you can support things in your local village, you can shop in your local neighbourhoods, but as much as possible you need to restrict your non-essential travel and stick close to home.

"That's what we do during cyclones, that's what we do during floods.

"We all pitch in and help together."

Meanwhile, authorities in Western Australia and South Australia have announced tough new measures that will see both states control their borders from Tuesday.

The WA government says exemptions will apply for essential services and workers.

Interstate arrivals will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.

Tourist destination Rottnest Island is being investigated as a quarantine zone.

The South Australian government will establish 12 border crossings where travellers will be required to sign a declaration about their health and ability to self-isolate for two weeks.


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