In what is being seen as a setback on the vaccine development front, UK pharma major AstraZeneca has pressed the pause button on its ongoing COVID-19 vaccine trials after an unexpected illness in a volunteer. AstraZeneca is developing the COVID-19 vaccine alongside University of Oxford.
Issuing a statement, AstraZeneca said, “As part of the ongoing randomized, controlled global trials of the Oxford coronavirus vaccine, our standard review process was triggered and we voluntarily paused vaccination to allow review of safety data by an independent committee.”
The statement added, “This is a routine action which has to happen whenever there is a potentially unexplained illness in one of the trials, while it is investigated, ensuring we maintain the integrity of the trials.”
AstraZeneca also said that in large trials, illnesses will sometimes happen by chance but must be reviewed independently. “We are working to expedite the review of the single event to minimise any potential impact on the trial timeline,” AstraZeneca spokesperson explained.
AstraZeneca is one of nine companies currently in late-stage Phase 3 trials for their vaccine candidates. Though during clinical trials are periodically reviewed, this is the first time during the COVID-19 trial that the process has been paused due to illness in volunteer.
In the US, AstraZeneca began enrolling 30,000 volunteers across 62 sites on August 31. The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, called AZD1222, uses a weakened version of a common cold causing adenovirus that has been engineered to code for the spike protein that the deadly novel coronavirus uses to attack the cells.
AstraZeneca is one of nine pharmaceutical firms currently involved in late-stage Phase 3 trials for their vaccine candidates.
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