Australian team test new bird flu vaccine

Australian researchers have begun a trial to test the effectiveness of a new vaccine to protect against the potentially deadly bird flu.

The Vaccine Trials Group at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research and Princess Margaret Hospital for Children is recruiting 150 adult volunteers to participate in the study.

Study leader, Dr Peter Richmond, said the Australian-developed vaccine has shown encouraging results in early trials.

"While there hasn't been any case of bird flu being spread from human to human, it's important that we're not complacent, and keep working to find ways to protect our community from a possible pandemic," Dr Richmond said.

"The best preparation is to have a vaccine available that is proven to be safe and effective - and that's our aim."

Dr Richmond said there was no live virus in the vaccine which meant there was no chance of catching the infection from the vaccination. He said the vaccine had already been shown to be safe in initial trials.

"What this study is most interested in determining is just how much of the vaccine is needed to provide good protection against bird flu," Dr Richmond said.

"In the initial trial a small dose of the vaccine generated a good immune response in about half of the participants.

"In this trial we will increase the dosage to see if that promotes good immunity in a larger proportion of participants, but even with the increase, the total amount of vaccine is still the same as what would be found in conventional flu vaccines."

If the vaccine is found to be safe and effective, stocks would then be manufactured to have on hand to protect against a possible bird flu pandemic.

Study volunteers will receive two doses of the vaccine, three weeks apart. They will then have blood tests over the following year to check their immunity.

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