Australian COVID vaccine dropped over false positive HIV result

SYDNEY (AFP) – Development of a COVID-19 vaccine in Australia was abandoned yesterday after clinical trials produced a false positive HIV result among subjects involved in early-stage testing.

The result prompted the government to axe plans to purchase millions of doses of the candidate vaccine and instead increase orders of alternatives from AstraZeneca and Novax, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

“The University of Queensland vaccine will not be able to proceed based on the scientific advice, and that will no longer feature as part of Australia’s vaccine plan,” Morrison said.

The candidate vaccine, which was still in phase one trials at the University of Queensland, used a small amount of HIV protein as a “molecular clamp” but triggered an antibody response that could interfere with HIV screening, Health Minister Greg Hunt said.