Vaccine trial paused after participant suffers illness
Final clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, have been put on hold after a participant had a suspected adverse reaction in the United Kingdom (UK).
AstraZeneca described it as a “routine” pause in the case of “an unexplained illness”.
The outcome of vaccine trials is being closely watched around the world.
The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine is seen as a strong contender among dozens being developed globally.
Hopes have been high that the vaccine might be one of the first to come on the market, following successful phase one and two testing.
Its move to Phase 3 testing in recent weeks has involved some 30,000 participants in the United States (US) as well as in the UK, Brazil and South Africa. Phase 3 trials in vaccines often involve thousands of participants and can last several years.
The New York Times is reporting a volunteer in the UK trial has been diagnosed with transverse myelitis, an inflammatory syndrome that affects the spinal cord and can be caused by viral infections.
However, the cause of the illness has not been confirmed and an independent investigation will now work out if there was any link to the vaccine.
Wellcome Trust director Jeremy Farrar, an expert in infectious disease control, said there were often pauses in vaccine trials and it was important any adverse reactions were taken seriously.
“It is crucial that all that data is shared openly and transparently, because the public must have absolute trust that these vaccines are safe and effective and, in the end, will hopefully bring the pandemic to a close,” Jeremy added.
UK experts have said a temporary pause could be seen as a good thing, because it showed the researchers are prioritising the safety of vaccine above everything else.
People can develop side-effects from taking any drug but they can also fall ill naturally.
US President Donald Trump has said he wants a vaccine available in the US before November 3 election, but his comments have raised fears that politics may be prioritised over safety in the rush for a vaccine.
On Tuesday, a group of nine Covid-19 vaccine developers sought to reassure the public by announcing a “historic pledge” to uphold scientific and ethical standards in the search for a vaccine.
AstraZeneca is among the nine firms who signed up to the pledge to only apply for regulatory approval after vaccines have gone through three phases of clinical study. -BBC