Victoria records 24 more COVID-related deaths as government launches vaccine research project
Victorian researchers have launched an appeal for people due for their third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to donate their blood as part of a two-year study.
- The researchers are seeking more than 1,000 participants, especially those who may be immunocompromised
- Victoria recorded another 5,721 new cases of COVID-19
- A further 24 COVID-related deaths takes the toll from the past week to 231
The new Victorian COVID-19 Vaccines Collection biobank, formally announced today, will aim to track the effectiveness of vaccines over time.
The Doherty Institute will lead the project and work with at least six other health and medical research groups.
“The main goal is to look at the immune response to vaccination over the long term,” said Doherty director Sharon Lewin.
To do that, the group is seeking up to 1,500 participants to donate blood before their booster shot, in the weeks afterwards, and then at six-month intervals for two years.
Researchers are particularly looking to track the immunity of people who are otherwise at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and becoming seriously ill, such as elderly people, cancer patients or those living with HIV.
Professor Lewin said it was expected new vaccines would be developed during the course of the trial and researchers hoped to evaluate those as well.
The project has received $5 million in backing from the Victorian government as part of its $35.6 million COVID-19 Research Fund.
Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy Jaala Pulford said after two years of profound disruption caused by coronavirus, the focus for scientists was on the “now what”.
“And we are every day in a new stage, a next phase of living with COVID. We’re able to get about and safely do almost all of the things that we used to, which is of course a great relief for all of us,” she said.
“And this is in no small part because of the profound effort … of our scientific community.”
Death toll rises by 231 in just a week
Victoria has recorded another 24 COVID-related deaths.
It means there have been 231 deaths reported to Victorian authorities in just the past week alone.
“Four of these deaths occurred in the past two days with a further two deaths occurring in the past week. The majority of today’s reported deaths occurred in February,” the health department said.
The ages of the deceased ranged from people in their 30s to 90s.
The death toll since the pandemic began sits at 2,590.
There are 250 coronavirus patients in Victorian hospitals, up from 245 reported on Friday.
Of those people, 28 are in intensive care units and eight are receiving ventilation.
Despite the slight rise in the number of people in hospital, the seven-day average for hospitalisations sits at about 261 — the lowest number since late November.
There were 5,721 new cases officially reported across the state, taking the total number of active infections to 39,556. That is down from the 42,046 active cases a day earlier.
That total comprises 1,834 positive results from PCR tests, and 3,887 from rapid antigen tests.
Just over 60 per cent of Victorian adults have now received three vaccine doses and 94 per cent of those aged 12 and older have received at least two.