The Australasian College of Pharmacy has been delivering cutting edge pharmacist education for more than 40 years. Hitting another great milestone on Tuesday 25 August, the College proudly hosted an exclusive clinical webinar with Professor Sarah Gilbert, the vaccinologist lead on the University of Oxford team developing a COVID-19 vaccine. Professor Gilbert detailed her mission to create the world’s first mass-produced COVID-19 vaccine and answered questions submitted from a few lucky participants during the webinar, which attracted more than 1,000 pharmacists who registered from Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Egypt.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that more than 25 million doses of the University of Oxford vaccine, one of the most advanced and promising in the world, had been secured for all Australians if its trials prove successful. Professor Gilbert told Australasia’s pharmacists that they would be central to the roll-out of her COVID-19 vaccine to the public, once it’s approved for use. This is another win for community pharmacy and supports previous statements made by Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young, that the Government would utilise the state’s enormous network of almost 1,200 community pharmacies when a future COVID-19 vaccine became available, so all Queenslanders can safely and conveniently access the vaccination.
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Queensland’s Branch President, Professor Trent Twomey, said he was pleased to host the webinar in Brisbane and to be able to connect community pharmacists to world-leading scientists so they continue to be at the forefront of the latest COVID-19 vaccine and health knowledge.
“Queensland community pharmacist vaccinators are already trained to deliver vaccinations and are well-placed to conveniently and safely roll-out a future COVID-19 vaccine. Community pharmacists are here to serve Queenslanders,” he said.
Professor Gilbert said that work on a specific coronavirus vaccine had been started well in advance to the coronavirus pandemic and that they were drawing on extensive knowledge and outcomes of previous vaccination research. Professor Gilbert also said that there are no short cuts being taken with the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, indeed manufacturing a specific COVID-19 vaccine on a large scale has started in February.
The Australasian College of Pharmacy President, Chris Owen, said it had been fascinating for members to learn more about the journey of Prof Gilbert, her team and the pathway to a potential vaccine in the future.
“It’s a privilege to continue offering agile and relevant education for pharmacists, especially during a time when they quickly need factual COVID-19 clinical information around from expert sources as the pandemic evolves,” he said.
About Professor Sarah Gilbert
Dr Gilbert completed her undergraduate studies at the University of East Anglia and her doctoral degree at the University of Hull. Following four years as a research scientist at the biopharmaceutical company Delta Biotechnology she joined the Nuffield Department of Medicine (NDM) at Oxford University in 1994 and became part of the Jenner Institute (within NDM) when it was founded in 2005. Her chief research interest is the development of viral-vectored vaccines that work by inducing strong and protective T and B cell responses.
Dr Gilbert leads the Jenner Institute programme in influenza vaccine development and also works on vaccines for many different emerging pathogens, including Nipah, MERS, Lassa, Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, and SARS-CoV-2. Working with colleagues in the Jenner Institute research labs, the Clinical Biomanufacturing Facility and Centre for Clinical Vaccinology and Tropical Medicine, all situated on the Old Road Campus in Oxford, she is able to take novel vaccines from design to clinical development, with a particular interest in the rapid transfer of vaccines into manufacturing and first in human trials. She is the Oxford Project Leader for ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, a promising vaccine against the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.