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Covid: Australian vaccine abandoned over false HIV response

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A promising Australian candidate for a coronavirus vaccine has been abandoned after trial participants returned false HIV positive results.

Australia had previously agreed to buy 51 million doses of the vaccine being developed by Australian firm CSL and the University of Queensland (UQ).

The government said orders of other vaccines would now fill the shortfall.

CSL and UQ stressed that the positive results were false – meaning trial participants’ health was not at risk.

The Australian government said it had now entered an agreement for the Novavax vaccine, and upped its existing order of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

The UK was the first to begin rolling out a vaccine from Pfizer this week.

What happened with the UQ/CSL vaccine?

The vaccine had been in stage one of trials, and proving to be effective in making antibodies.

But it also generated HIV antibodies in some recipients – which meant it showed false positives for HIV. Further testing proved the HIV wasn’t there.

CSL and UQ said fixing the flaw would take about a year, prompting a decision to abandon the trial.

“It was likely to work. But we knew that we didn’t want to have any issues with confidence, and this false-positive test may have caused some confusion and lack of confidence,” said Brendan Murphy, secretary of Australia’s Department of Health.

Vaccine co-lead Paul Young described the decision as “devastating” after 11 months of “living and breathing this project”.

“While this is a tough decision to take, the urgent need for a vaccine has to be everyone’s priority,” he said.

Other medical experts have also praised the “realistic” decision to abandon the UQ vaccine, saying it reflects the reality of vaccine development.

“In general, about 90% of vaccines never make it to market. As a global community, we have been spoilt with the unprecedented swiftness and success with which the development of Covid-19 vaccines have taken place,” said infectious diseases expert Sanjaya Senanayake from the Australian National University.

What does it mean for Australia?

Australia has all but eliminated community transmission of the virus, after getting on top of outbreaks in recent months.

Prof Murphy said the nation was in a “wonderful position” at present, but there would be “full population coverage” from two vaccines in 2021.

“We don’t need emergency approval – we’re in a good position because we’ve controlled the virus,” he said on Friday.

“So I’m very confident about the successful vaccination strategy that we’ll be facing next year.”

The government said it had prepared for this sort of situation and as such had “spread the risk” with multiple deals for vaccines.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said focusing Australia’s manufacturing efforts on the other vaccines would mean “we are more likely to have the entire population vaccinated earlier rather than later”.

The Oxford vaccine has been found to be “safe and effective”, according to researchers, but is awaiting approval from regulators around the world.

Early 2021 is still listed as when the first vaccines – most likely from Oxford/AstraZeneca – are scheduled to be given to Australians.

Australia has a population of 25 million people. It recorded just one case of local transmission in the past week.

The nation has reported 908 deaths and 28,000 cases so far during the pandemic – far fewer than many nations.

It has been praised for responding quickly to the pandemic with border shutdowns, lockdown measures and aggressive contract-tracing efforts. Some failures, however, have been blamed for deaths.

Victoria crushed the country’s worst outbreak after four months of a severe lockdown in the state capital, Melbourne.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55269381

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Covid: Brisbane to enter three-day lockdown over single infection

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The Australian city of Brisbane has begun a snap three-day lockdown after a cleaner in its hotel quarantine system became infected with coronavirus.

Health officials said the cleaner had the highly transmissible UK variant and they were afraid it could spread.

Brisbane has seen very few cases of the virus beyond quarantined travellers since Australia’s first wave last year.

It is the first known instance of this variant entering the Australian community outside of hotel quarantine.

The lockdown is for five populous council areas in Queensland’s state capital.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the measure on Friday morning local time, about 16 hours after the woman tested positive.

Ms Palaszczuk said the lockdown aimed to halt the virus as rapidly as possible, adding: “Doing three days now could avoid doing 30 days in the future.”

“I think everybody in Queensland… knows what we are seeing in the UK and other places around the world is high rates of infection from this particular strain,” she said.

“And we do not want to see that happening here in our great state.”

Australia has reported 28,500 coronavirus infections and 909 deaths since the pandemic began. By contrast, the US, which is the hardest-hit country, has recorded more than 21 million infections while nearly 362,000 people have died of the disease.The lockdown will begin at 18:00 on Friday (08:00 GMT) in the Brisbane city, Logan and the Ipswich, Moreton and Redlands local government areas.

Residents will only be allowed to leave home for certain reasons, such as buying essential items and seeking medical care.

For the first time, residents in those areas will also be required to wear masks outside of their homes.

Australia has faced sporadic outbreaks over the past year, with the most severe one in Melbourne triggering a lockdown for almost four months.

A pre-Christmas outbreak in Sydney caused fresh alarm, but aggressive testing and contact-tracing has kept infection numbers low. The city recorded four local cases on Friday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has pledged to start mass vaccinations in February instead of March as was planned.

Lockdown interrupts ‘near normal’ life in Brisbane

Simon Atkinson, BBC News in Brisbane

At 8:00 today I popped to the local supermarket for some bread, milk – and because it’s summer here – a mango. I was pretty much the only customer.

When I went past the same shop a couple of hours later it was a different story – 50 people standing in the drizzle – queuing to get inside as others emerged with bulging shopping bags. “Heaps busier than Christmas,” a cheery trolley attendant told me. “It’s off the scale”.

Despite the “don’t panic” messages from authorities, pictures on social media show it’s a pattern being repeated across the city.

While shutdowns are common around the world, the tough and sudden stay-at-home order for Brisbane has caught people on the hop here after months of near normality.

But while such a rapid, hard lockdown off the back of just a single case of Covid-19 will seem crazy in some parts of the world, I’ve not come across too many people complaining.

And I don’t think that’s just because Aussies love to follow a rule. This is the first time the UK variant of the virus has been detected in the community in Australia.

And nobody here wants Brisbane to go through what Melbourne suffered last year. Even if it means going without mangoes.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55582836

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Australia v India: Five touring players in isolation after restaurant visit

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Five India players are isolating as a precaution after a video on social media showed them eating indoors at a Melbourne restaurant.

Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Shubman Gill, Prithvi Shaw and Navdeep Saini – all part of India’s Test squad to play Australia – will be isolated from other players but are still able to train.

Both teams are investigating to determine whether bio-secure protocols for the tour have been breached.

The third Test begins on 6 January.

The tour is being played with restrictions to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

While in Melbourne, where the recent second Test was played, players and staff are allowed to leave their hotel but if they attend a restaurant they must remain outdoors.

An India supporter posted a video on social media of the five players eating indoors at a restaurant on New Year’s Day.

“The BCCI [Board of Control for Cricket in India] and CA [Cricket Australia] are investigating the matter and seeking to determine whether the outing constitutes a breach of biosecurity protocols,” a Cricket Australia statement said.

“In the interim, on the advice of the Australian and Indian medical teams, the aforementioned players have been placed in isolation as a precaution.

“This will include separating the group of players from the broader Indian and Australian squads when traveling and at the training venue.”

On Monday the teams are due to travel from Melbourne to Sydney for the third Test which will be played at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

No details were given on whether the five players would be able to play in Sydney.

Pant and Gill both played in the second Test, which India won to level the four-Test series, while vice-captain Rohit was expected to play in the third, having recently quarantined for 14 days to join the squad late after injury.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/sport/cricket/55514593

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Covid: Sydney announces new restrictions ahead of New Year

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Australia has announced new restrictions for Sydney ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations.

The city is battling a worsening outbreak after months of next to no local cases. Officials reported it had grown to 147 cases on Wednesday.

The news comes amid anger over footage of young revellers seen on Sydney’s Bronte Beach on Christmas Day.

Immigration minister Alex Hawke said tourists caught flouting public health restrictions could be deported.

The virus’s re-appearance in Sydney a week before Christmas sparked a swift re-introduction of restrictions in the city, including clampdowns on holiday gatherings and a lockdown of the worst-affected region, the Northern Beaches.

On Wednesday, the New South Wales (NSW) state government announced further restrictions for New Year’s Eve following the discovery of a new cluster in a separate part of the city – believed to have spread during Christmas gatherings.

“We don’t want New Year’s Eve to be the cause of a super-spreader [event],” said NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

Households will now be restricted to only five guests from Thursday, down from the previous 10-person limit. Outdoor gathering numbers have also been cut to 30 from 50.

Every other state and territory in Australia maintains a travel ban on people from Sydney.

Sydney’s traditional New Year’s Eve fireworks celebrations will still go ahead but authorities have already banned group gatherings at vantage points around the harbour.

Australia has recorded 909 deaths and about 28,300 cases since the pandemic began – a number far lower than many other rich nations.

 

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55481851

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