Critical vaccine for koalas set to be rolled out

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koala chlamydia vaccine 
Photo: aussieflash 123rf

While vaccination queues have become commonplace across Australia, the sight of hundreds of koalas lining up for a life-saving jab over coming months is still expected to turn some heads.

The University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) is leading a Phase 3 rollout of a koala chlamydia vaccine that has been developed collaboratively over many years with many partners, including the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital where the vaccine—from 15 October—will be trialled in about 400 koalas.

USC Professor of Microbiology Peter Timms said the vaccine could play a significant role in the longer-term survival of koalas, especially in South East Queensland and NSW where chlamydia affects 50 per cent or more of the koala population.

“The vaccine has now passed Phase 1 and Phase 2 testing that has established that it is completely safe and produces a good immune response and a good level of protection,” Professor Timms said.

“The vaccine has been evaluated in more than 200 koalas in eight smaller trials so far, both in captive and wild koalas entering wildlife hospitals and in koala populations in the wild.

“We are now at the exciting stage of being ready to roll out the vaccine as part of large Phase 3 trials.”

As well as the initial rollout trial at Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, other trials are planned soon for Moggill Koala Rehabilitation Centre, RSPCA Wildlife Hospital and in several wild populations, including in the Moreton Bay region.

Hundreds of koalas admitted to the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital will receive the single dose vaccine via an injection after they have undergone routine hospital care and just prior to their release back into the wild.

“While this vaccination will directly benefit each of the animals, the trial will also have a focus on the protection provided by vaccination,” Professor Timm said. 

“All koalas will be microchipped and the hospital will record any animals that return for any reason over the following 12 months.”

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