Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
  • Australia has scrapped a $750 million project after a vaccine trial saw some participants falsely test positive for HIV.
  • It is the first time a country has abandoned a vaccine attempt.
  • Health Minister Greg Hunt said Friday the trial vaccine, developed by the University of Queensland and the biotech firm CSL, "triggered an antibody response that could interfere with HIV screening."
  • The University of Queensland said the trial vaccine had shown promising signs in combating Covid-19, and that "routine follow up tests confirmed there is no HIV virus present."
  • To compensate for the cancellation, Australia has increased its orders of vaccines developed by AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Novavax, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
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Australia has become the first country in the world to scrap a coronavirus vaccine project, after a shot developed as part of the $750 million scheme saw trial participants falsely test positive for HIV.

The University of Queensland and the Australian biotech firm CSL had been conducting clinical trials on a prototype vaccine with the backing of the Australian government and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

But at a press conference Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the projected was terminated.

"We can't have any issues with confidence," he said. "We are as a nation now, with a good portfolio of vaccines, able to make these decisions to best protect the Australian people."

Morrison at a press conference on December 10, 2020.

In its place, Morrison said his government would increase orders of other vaccines, namely 120 million more doses of the Pfizer shot, 20 million more shorts of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and 11 million extra doses of the Novavax vaccine.

Speaking after Morrison, Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Queensland trial vaccine "triggered an antibody response that could interfere with HIV screening."

Several trial participants who were given a shot of the prototype vaccine had tested positive for HIV, despite not having that virus.

The trial vaccine had used parts of a protein found in HIV, which triggered antibodies commonly seen during HIV testing. 

Despite the false positive HIV test results, the trial vaccine was showing promising signs in combating the coronavirus, the University of Queensland said in a Friday statement.

"The UQ-CSL v451 Covid-19 vaccine has shown that it elicits a robust response towards the virus and has a strong safety profile," it said.

"However, following consultation with the Australian Government, CSL will not progress the vaccine candidate to Phase 2/3 clinical trials."

"There is no possibility the vaccine causes [HIV] infection, and routine follow up tests confirmed there is no HIV virus present," the university added.

As of Friday, Australia has recorded 28,012 cases of Covid-19 and 908 total deaths, Health Ministry data shows.

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