The pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca has said that it has ‘voluntarily paused’ a clinical trial of its Coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccine, in what it called a ‘routine action’ after a volunteer developed an ‘unexpected illness’.
AstraZeneca is developing the vaccine alongside the University of Oxford. Spain’s Health Minister Salvador Illa recently said that the first doses of the vaccine could be available in Spain ‘by the end of this year’, if all things went well.
Spain has agreed with the European Commission to participate in the plan to purchase up to 400m doses for EU countries from the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company, as soon as the vaccine is confirmed to be safe and effective.
Also read (28/8/20): Spain authorises clinical trial of Covid-19 vaccine
The progress of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine called AZD1222 is being watched closely around the world, as it is seen as one of the leading contenders among several being developed globally.
AstraZeneca is one of nine companies that are currently in late-stage Phase 3 trials for their vaccines. In the USA, the company began enrolling 30,000 volunteers across dozens of sites on 31 August.
At the start of September, Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca said that the company was ‘moving quickly but without cutting corners, and regulators have clear and stringent efficacy and safety standards for the approval of any new medicine, and that includes this potential Covid-19 vaccine’.
He said that AstraZeneca was ‘putting science and the interest of society at the heart’ of its work on the vaccine and ‘we will remain true to our values as we continue our efforts to bring this vaccine broadly and equitably to billions of people around the world’.
It was not clear where the patient was based who developed an ‘unexpected illness’, or the nature and severity of their illness.
Pausing clinical trials is not uncommon, but this is thought to be the first time it has happened with a Covid-19 vaccine trial.
Also read (27/8/20): Health Minister: first doses of Covid-19 vaccine in Spain ‘by end of year’
A spokesman for AstraZeneca said that the company had ‘voluntarily paused’ the trial to allow a ‘review of safety data by an independent committee’.
‘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,’ the spokesman added.
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