Date published: 
9 September 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

NATALIE BARR:

In breaking news, there's been a major setback to one of our coronavirus vaccine hopes. The trial for the lead contender, the AstraZeneca vaccine, has been reportedly put on hold; a participant in that human trial has had a suspected adverse reaction. The trial is being developed with Oxford University and is being held in the UK - it is one of the vaccines Australia is hoping to buy.

Joining me now is Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth. Morning to you. The news of this trial being put on hold is just coming through to everyone. Are you concerned by this?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, Nat, in a way, this reinforces that, despite the accelerated nature of vaccine development, safety is at the forefront of everybody's mind. And it would be fairly standard process if there's a very- if there's a severe reaction, and they're not sure whether it's attributable to the vaccine or not, to gather all the information and halt the trial for the moment. We've got to keep in mind that tens of thousands of people have now received this Oxford vaccine, so this is a testimony to the rigour, and the safety focus that people are putting on vaccine development.

NATALIE BARR:

So, what does it mean for Australia and a vaccine now? Because we have also signed up to the University of Queensland one, haven't we? Are all our eggs in that basket now?

NICK COATSWORTH:

No, that's not the case at all. There's some- obviously, we'll see what happens with these reports for the Oxford vaccine, and by no means puts that vaccine completely off the table. But that is a reason why the Australian Government is investigating- investing in multiple technologies, multiple potential vaccine candidates. And we know that not all of them are going to go to market, and that's why we've got so many different vaccine candidates - I believe over 160 around the world at the moment, that are being tested. And we've invested in several of the leading candidates.

NATALIE BARR:

Okay. Victoria's troubled contact tracing team is being overhauled after the Premier conceded it does need to be upgraded after many weeks of saying it was fine. Should this have been done sooner?

NICK COATSWORTH:

Well, Nat, it is very difficult to undergo serious reform to your systems at the peak of an epidemic with 800 cases a day. They were improving during that time, I'm aware of that. But now what the Victorians are doing is undergoing some reform of that system, to decentralise it, to push the public health units out into the regions and into the suburbs, to digitalise some of their systems and processes. All that will improve the efficiency, and the efficiency means that people who have COVID-19 and their contacts will be isolated and quarantined quickly, and that'll help Victoria manage small numbers of cases. So, these are really important interventions, and it's the right time to be doing them.

NATALIE BARR:

Okay. Dr Nick Coatsworth, we thank you for your time today.

NICK COATSWORTH:

Thanks Nat.

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