Australian COVID-19 vaccine candidate shows positive results in phase one human trials

Victorian aged care residents could be included in the next stage of testing for a potential COVID-19 vaccine that has shown positive results during phase one human trials in Adelaide.

The vaccine candidate, COVAX-19, was developed by Adelaide-based company Vaxine, which has laboratories at Flinders University.

Volunteers between the ages of 18 and 65 in Adelaide have been injected with two doses of either COVAX-19 or a placebo in the phase one trial.

One of the volunteers for the phase one Adelaide trial was SA Best MP Frank Pangallo.

“I feel great — I had my second dose of the vaccine today and no side-effects for me,” Mr Pangallo said on Friday.

“I’m really buoyed by the positive results.”

Lead researcher Professor Nikolai Petrovsky said the vaccine candidate had been shown to be safe and to induce antibodies that attack the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“We’ve had no major side-effects in any of the subjects,” said Professor Petrovsky.

He said the vaccine had also shown positive results in trials on animals in the United States in protecting them from COVID-19 infection.

A syringe in front of a box of a trial coronavirus vaccine.
COVAX-19 has been injected into volunteers in Adelaide.(Supplied)

If the vaccine candidate passes subsequent trials, it could be ready by year’s end, he said.

“We can now test the vaccine in nursing home patients and show that it’s effective in inducing the right type of immune responses and hopefully, ultimately, show that it’s effective in preventing them getting infected,” Professor Petrovsky said.

“Based on the safety of the vaccine in that [phase one] group, we’re now actually going into the elderly, which is very relevant given the problems we’re seeing in Victoria.”

Vaccine trials coming to aged care homes

The developers of the vaccine are offering their trial to Victorian aged care facilities, where COVID-19 has taken a devastating toll, among other facilities.

“Under our existing approval for our trials, there’s no reason those trials can’t be extended to Victoria,” Professor Petrovsky said.

“We would just need to identify sites in Victoria that wanted to be part of the trial.”

There have been 94 outbreaks of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in Victorian aged care homes, linked to 61 deaths.

An ambulance pulls out of the driveway of St Basil's aged care home.
Residents have been evacuated from St Basil’s aged care home in Melbourne, the site of a COVID-19 outbreak.(ABC News)

Those who have recovered from COVID-19 are also candidates for the phase two trial — which will also aim to test whether the drug might help prevent reinfection.

If the vaccine candidate also passes phase two, the final phase would involve testing on a large population with a high incidence of COVID-19 transmission overseas.

From there, Professor Petrovsky said, it would require approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration before becoming available for distribution in Australia.