For the first time, one of the dozens of potential COVID vaccines in development around the world has been abandoned. Australia announced Friday that a vaccine project has been terminated because volunteers in clinical trials received false positives in HIV tests, Business Insider reports. The $750 million project, a collaboration between the University of Queensland and the biotech company CSL, used fragments of a protein found in HIV, reports the New York Times. Australian authorities said the vaccine appears to be safe and effective—with zero chance of actually infecting anybody with HIV—but with other vaccines now available, they did not want to risk undermining public trust in the vaccination program. Fixing the error that caused the false positives could set development back up to a year.
"We want to ensure that Australians ... have full confidence, absolute full confidence that when it gets the tick, they can get the jab, and they can make that decision for themselves and for their families, confidently," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday, per Reuters. "We are as a nation now, with a good portfolio of vaccines, able to make these decisions to best protect the Australian people." Morrison said Phase 2 and 3 trials of the homegrown vaccine will be halted and the government will now focus on securing tens of millions of doses of other COVID vaccines. Immunologist John P. Moore tells the Times that the errors that led to the vaccine's cancelation are probably embarrassing for researchers, but "when you’re running at 90 miles an hour, sometimes you trip." (Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)