Australia is still 18 months away from a COVID-19 vaccine they can access at their local GP – with the possibility looming an effective jab may never arrive.
The World Health Organisation warned this week the world may never have a ‘silver bullet’ for COVID-19 capable of completely neutralising the virus’ spread.
Dean of Health Sciences at Melbourne‘s Swinburne University Professor Bruce Thompson told Daily Mail Australia there was no guarantee even a working vaccine would be effective at suppressing the virus.
‘We’re cautiously optimistic we’re going in the right direction but we don’t have actual proof that if you take this vaccine it will protect you and your symptoms are going to be way less than they are now,’ he said.
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Masked pedestrians outside Sydney’s Town Hall station on August 3. A leading Australian scientist has warned Australia may never get a ‘silver bullet’ vaccine which would immediately neutralise COVID-19
Two Australian research teams in Adelaide and at the University of Queensland are already at the clinical trial stage in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine – meaning they are testing their drug on humans.
Globally as of the end of July, there are 250 vaccine candidates and 30 at the human trial stage.
Professor Thompson said even if a viable sample was ready for September, it would be another prospect altogether to get it produced in enough quantity for the mass market.
‘We’re talking about the middle to the end of next year when we’ll have a vaccine ready for your GP to give you,’ he said.
‘We need to start thinking about how we minimise the spread in other ways like through contact tracing.
‘Through syndromic analysis we can start looking at how the virus is spreading through small areas and containing those outbreaks.
‘You have to also consider the real possibility we don’t ever have a effective vaccine – we may not have the silver bullet.’
A medical specialist wearing a protective suit opens a test kit at a rapid testing center in Vietnam. While the world waits for a mass-produced vaccine, rapid testing would allow Australians to find out their COVID results in 30 seconds at home
Scientists at the University of Queensland work on a vaccine candidate which has since progressed to human trials
The vaccine production process for COVID-19 is already being fast-tracked, with normal development timelines spanning as long as four years.
Professor Thompson said rapid testing – whereby Australians can turn around a COVID-19 test in 30 seconds at home much like a pregnancy test – and better treatment were other ways the government can suppress the virus’ spread before a vaccine arrives.
‘What we need to do is be ahead of the curve so we don’t have to keep locking down like we are at the moment,’ Professor Thompson said.
Last month, US wonder drug Remdisivir became the first major treatment to receive approval from the Australian government to treat the novel coronavirus.
UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND’S PIONEERING ‘MOLECULAR CLAMP’ FIGHTING COVID-19
The university received a request from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to use its newly patented DNA-based molecular clamp technology to fast-track the vaccine after the virus hit Australia’s shores in January.
A team of 20 researchers have spent the last 15 months preparing for a ‘rapid response’.
The technology uses the DNA sequence of the coronavirus released by China to produce a protein that’s the same as the one on the surface of the actual virus.
That protein will be the essence of the vaccine, capable of generating immune system responses that protect people.
The vaccine was developed using molecular clamp technology that locks the ‘spike’ protein into a shape