An Australian doctor is one of the first two people in the world to be injected in human trials for a potential coronavirus vaccine which could be rolled out this year.
Sydney man Dr Edward O’Neill, who moved to the UK two years ago, has turned guinea pig for Oxford University’s promising antidote to the deadly virus.
When asked if he had any concerns about safety, he said he would “walk in faith” and trust his fellow scientists.
“You can never fully exclude any potential risk, but I think you have to walk in faith with these things, you have trust that the work is being done (by scientists) as best as they can and know that the cause is important,” Dr O’Neill said.
Dr O’Neill, who has been researching radiation oncology at the university for two years, has not been told whether he’s been given the trial vaccine or if he’s part of the control group.
He said he joined the trial because he wanted to help the world beat COVID-19 faster.
“It just seems like the right thing to do, to ensure that we can combat this disease a little and get over it a lot faster,” Dr O’Neill said.
His wife knew he was taking the injection and wanted to join the trial too but was unable as she’s breastfeeding their son.
The Australian admitted that as a researcher himself, he would also get a chance to gain a unique perspective on a scientific study.
“It’s important for myself to know what the other end of a clinical study looks like as well,” Dr O’Neill said.
“So it’s been informative for me as well.”
Scientists across the globe are rushing to develop a treatment or vaccine for the fast-spreading coronavirus that has killed more than 191,000 people and ravaged financial markets.
Horror at Trump’s virus cure musings
Australia’s chief doctor is among a chorus of health experts warning against drinking or injecting disinfectant after Donald Trump opined whether it might cure coronavirus.
The US president’s comments prompted a strong warning from the makers of Dettol advising that “under no circumstances” should their product be injected or ingested.
“Our disinfectant and hygiene products should only be used as intended and in line with usage guidelines. Please read the label and safety information,” said the company Reckitt Benckiser in a statement.
Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy was noticeably amused when asked about his expert opinion on whether disinfectant would work inside the body.
“I would caution against the injection of disinfection [sic]!” he said, stifling a grin.
“They could be quite toxic to people.”
“I wasn’t privy to [Mr Trump’s] comments, so I want to be very careful about commenting on something that I didn’t hear myself,” he said.
Others have not been quite so diplomatic.
“This is one of the most dangerous and idiotic suggestions made so far in how one might actually treat COVID-19,” said Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at Britain’s University of East Anglia.
He said injecting disinfectants would likely kill anyone who tried it.
“It is hugely irresponsible because, sadly, there are people around the world who might believe this sort of nonsense and try it out for themselves,” he said.
Mr Trump said on Thursday (local time) that scientists should explore whether inserting light or disinfectant into the bodies of people infected with the new coronavirus might help them clear the disease.
“I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute,” he said.
“Is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning, because you see it gets in the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs?”
“Is there a way we can do something like that by injection, inside, or almost a cleaning?” he said.
“It would be interesting to check that.”
He also queried whether blasting the body with UV light would kill the virus.
“Supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light … supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do, either through the skin or in some other way?”
However the White House has since insisted that Mr Trump had been taken out of context and urged people to seek coronavirus treatment only after conferring with their doctors.
While UV light is known to kill viruses contained in droplets in the air, doctors say there is no way it could be introduced into the human body to target cells infected with COVID-19.
Schools and social distancing
The Morrison government continues to mount pressure on the states to return schools to normal as soon as possible, saying social distancing rules won’t be necessary in classrooms.
There is mounting evidence to back the medical advice that children are less prone to catching and spreading COVID-19.
NSW Health has done a large study including testing children with no virus symptoms and found no evidence they were transmitting the disease.
The nation’s health officials continue to advise there is no reason for schools to close but despite this, the states and territories continue to take a range of approaches.
Some have encouraged students back to normal with the start of term two while others are offering mainly distance education for at least the next month.
Mr Morrison emphasised there was no requirement for minimum floor space per person, unlike other in enclosed areas such as shops.
“The four square metre rule and the 1.5m distancing between students during classroom activities is not appropriate and not required. I can’t be more clear than that,” he told reporters.
However, unions have concerns the requirements around regular cleaning and making sure soap or hand sanitiser is freely available are not being met.