Coronavirus: More than 1 million dead across the world

Urgent COVID-19 vaccine message that needs to get out now

An urgent education campaign is a must to build trust and ensure maximum uptake of the future COVID-19 vaccine, one of the state's top virologists has revealed.

There are fears language used in reports about candidate vaccine development like "fast-tracked" or "race against time" could plant seeds that in someway the new vaccine will have skipped steps in the urgency.

Experts say the public campaign needs to start now so that when the vaccine arrives people have been well-informed and assured of the safety of the vaccine.

"We have very tough safety protocols in Australia and the public needs to be given all the information of the processes to build their confidence," virologist Ian Mackay said.

The associate professor at the University of Queensland said widespread, open communication now was the key to later willingness and co-operation to get the jab.

A new Insight report in the Medical Journal Australia has revealed concerns are starting to emerge on social media that vaccine developers may have cut corners.

"These concerns have the potential to undermine trust, as well as the providers delivering it, leading to misunderstanding and misapprehension," the report states.

The journal says that in Australia, intended vaccine acceptance appears to be fluctuating between 76 per cent and 86 per cent.

"Willingness to vaccinate", does not always equate to actual uptake, according to the authors.

"In 2009, "willingness" to receive the H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic vaccine was documented in the month prior to the vaccine release at 54 per cent. In reality, out of the 21 million doses purchased, only 18.9 per cent of the population actually received it. Low perceptions of personal risk coupled with beliefs that the situation did not warrant the need for vaccination and concerns about the development of the vaccine were all factors given for non-acceptance," the authors said.

Assoc prof Mackay said that COVID-19 pandemic was unprecedented as in 2009 there was already a "flu vaccine platform" to work from.

"We are in a bit of a lull with information at the moment as we have to wait for trials to be carried out but the reports will soon start coming and Queenslanders need to listen and be informed," he said.

There are currently more than 160 COVID-19 vaccine candidates under development, with a number of these in the human trial phase, including the homegrown contender from the University of Queensland.

A key ingredient in the University of Queensland's coronavirus vaccine is already in production at a UK medical manufacturing plant.

The Australian made coronavirus vaccine, which could be available in the middle of next year, will use the booster ingredient MF59 that has already been included in more than 150 million flu shots worldwide.

Seqirus, a company owned by Australian biotechnology giant CSL, showed News Corp Australia its production line for the MF59 adjuvant in Liverpool, northern England, this week.

Dr Russell Basser, Seqirus' senior vice president of research and development, said the UQ vaccine team had opted for a proven adjuvant or booster.

"In the world of adjuvants it's quite new but it's also quite well established - it's got a long track record and we know that it's safe when given with flu and there's over more than 150 million doses of the adjuvant that have been given to people," he said.

"That long standing experience of so many millions of doses is actually very powerful in giving us comfort that at least that part of the equation is safe."

- Additional reporting by Stephen Drill


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