The race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine is hotting up, with over 100 candidates progressing through laboratory, animal and now at least 10 vaccines entering human clinical trials. 

To help make sense of this emerging and competitive landscape, the Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) has launched a podcast delving into how a vaccine can be developed rapidly, safely, and distributed equitably.

The podcast is hosted by Associate Professor Nigel Crawford. Nigel leads an infectious diseases surveillance and vaccine safety research group at MCRI, and part of the Parkville precinct, which will be a key site for vaccine trials.  

A/Professor Crawford said, "In this podcast, we have taken a step back from the daily news bombardment to identify and explain the big, enduring issues we as researchers think about when developing any new vaccine. We then apply that framework to our approach for a COVID-19 vaccine and global efforts to provide an effective and safe vaccine that is distributed equitably. 

"I hope listeners find it useful and informative to have the world's foremost experts walk us through their role in the COVID-19 vaccine landscape and provide in some detail what we might otherwise only hear in a 10-second news grab."

Three episodes are already available, with more planned as new vaccine candidates and issues emerge:

In Episode 1, we hear from Professor Emeritus Stanley Plotkin from the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Plotkin, an international doyen of vaccine development, provides some background on historical breakthroughs in vaccine development and how they might be applied to a COVID-19 vaccine. He also raises the possibility of using human challenge models to speed vaccine development and possible ways to overcome important hurdles of manufacturing capacity and equitable distribution.

Episode 2 sees Nigel interview Professor Kathryn Edwards, a professor of paediatrics at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee. Professor Edwards is an internationally recognised expert in vaccinology and, in particular, vaccine safety. She and Nigel discuss the crucial topic of vaccine safety when developing a new vaccine, including what measures are in place to ensure safety at every step during the breakneck pace of current efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.

In Episode 3 Nigel speaks to Professor Andrew Pollard from The Oxford Vaccine Group, co-leader of The Oxford Vaccine Centre's COVID-19 vaccine trial. 

Episode 4 focuses on the virology and immunology of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in an interview with Professor Kanta Sabbarao, Director of WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza.

Episode 5, to be released shortly, focuses on the Australian vaccine landscape. Nigel interviews Professor Terry Nolan, who leads the Vaccination and Immunisation Research Group (VIRGO) at MCRI and is affiliated with the Doherty University of Melbourne's School of Population and Global Health. Professor Nolan provides an update on Australian efforts toward a COVID-19 vaccine, Australia's role in global clinical trials and how we will ensure Australians will be able to access a vaccine once it is established as being safe and effective.

About the Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre
MVEC is an educational website, developed to provide up-to-date immunisation information for both healthcare professionals and members of the public.
MVEC is based at Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI), a research organisation, and is affiliated with SAEFVIC (Surveillance of Adverse Events Following Vaccination in the Community), the Victorian Vaccine Safety Service. The content of MVEC reflects a collaboration of information prepared by immunisation pediatricians and adult physicians, immunisation nurses, infectious disease specialists, allergy specialists and infection control teams. All information is reviewed and updated regularly. MVEC is a proud member of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Vaccine Safety Net. All Vaccine Safety Net members are endorsed by the WHO as a source of reliable and credible vaccine safety information. MVEC is funded by SAEFVIC and the Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Immunisation Section.

About MCRI
The Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) is the largest child health research institute in Australia committed to making discoveries and developing treatments to improve child and adolescent health in Australia and around the world. MCRI pioneers new treatments, trials better vaccines and improves ways of diagnosing and helping sick babies, children and adolescents. MCRI is one of the only research institutes in Australia to offer genetic testing to find answers for families of children with previously undiagnosed conditions.