COVID-19

First Melbourne-made Covid jabs administered

An initial six patients have undergone dosing and successfully passed all safety tests over the past month, paving the way for wider Phase 1 trial of new-generation Covid vaccines developed by the Doherty Institute and Monash University.While rolling up his sleeve for the first jab in the world-first trial at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Stephen said he was honoured to help out the Australian scientists behind the new generation vaccines in any way he could.“When I think about what people have gone through in the last two years, there have been so many stresses and demands on individuals which have been far greater than any made on me -home schooling, people working in health or allied industries, people who have lost their businesses – it has just been really awful,” Stephen said.“So when I calculate on the scale of what I have contributed, it is not an enormous amount. So I hope this balances it a little bit.”As revealed by the Herald Sun in March, teams at the Doherty Institute and Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences have both developed new Covid vaccine candidates hoped to be more powerful and suited to future variants than existing jabs.Stephen became the first person to receive a jab in a trail of the vaccines on April 12, followed soon after at the RMH by another five participants. A final safety review of their results this week paved the way for the trial to continue.Both of the Melbourne vaccines focus solely on the most dangerous area at the tip of the Covid-causing virus’s spike protein, called the receptor binding domain or RBD, raising hopes they will offer greater protection.Trial principal Associate Professor Joe Sasadeusz said all of the 114 Phase 1 trial participants would be closely monitored.“We dosed our first patients and we were very happy with how well it went,” A/Prof Sasadeusz said.“There will be more patients at the same dose once safety is determined for this cohort, then we move to higher doses progressively.”Professor Colin Pouton, leader of MIPS’ mRNA vaccine team, said he was thrilled to hear the first recipients were doing well after their jabs and keen to learn how significant their immune boost would be on top of three previous vaccines.“It has been a long time in the making, so it is wonderful to hear the vaccines are actually being used,” Prof Pouton said.“They will start measuring fairly soon, but obviously until you have enough people going through the trial we won’t have enough information to draw conclusions. But, within three months, we will have quite a lot of information.”Health Minister Greg Hunt said the progress made by researchers at the Doherty and Monash could play a vital role in Australia’s continued strategy to live with Covid as the pandemic evolves.“These two vaccines have the potential to solve the global problem of mutated versions of the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” Mr Hunt said.“This is an exciting possibility that will save lives and protect lives.”Overseas, both Pfizer and Moderna are undertaking animal testing with new Omicron-based versions of their vaccines, however the results have not proven to be any more protective against the now-dominant variant than their original shots.Prof Pouton said he remained hopeful the more concentrated RBD vaccines developed in Melbourne would be more successful.After weeks of filling out paperwork and undergoing tests ahead of his historic jab, Stephen, 61, told the Herald Sun while waiting in recovery that he felt very confident in the safety of his dose.“I, and all Australians, have been the beneficiary of somebody else rolling their sleeve up, so why not me? “I am fit and healthy and in a position to do it,” he said.“The debacle of accessing the vaccines in 2021 made it an incontrovertible fact that we need to be able to produce our own, and we need to support local scientists in Australia.“We have greater potential for distributing to our neighbours in the Asia-Pacific if we are producing the drug.”Anyone interested in participating in the Doherty and Monash Covid vaccines trial can contact the Vaccine & Immunisation Research Group via email to [email protected], or by phoning 8344 9325.

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