AstraZeneca resumes trials of COVID vaccine halted by patient illness
By Michael Holden
LONDON (Reuters) – AstraZeneca has resumed British clinical trials of its COVID-19 vaccine, one of the most advanced in development, after receiving the green light from safety watchdogs, the company said on Saturday.
The late-stage trials of the experimental vaccine, developed with researchers from the University of Oxford, were suspended this week after an illness in a study subject in Britain, casting doubts on an early rollout.
“On 6 September, the standard review process triggered a voluntary pause to vaccination across all global trials to allow review of safety data by independent committees, and international regulators,” AstraZeneca said.
It added that safety reviewers had recommended to Britain’s Medicines Health Regulatory Authority (MHRA) that it was safe to resume the UK trials.
The patient involved in the study had been reportedly suffering from neurological symptoms associated with a rare spinal inflammatory disorder called transverse myelitis.
AstraZeneca, based in Cambridge, said it could not disclose further medical information.
Governments around the world are desperate for a vaccine to help end the pandemic, which has caused more than 900,000 deaths and global economic turmoil. The World Health Organization (WHO) had flagged AstraZeneca’s as the most promising.
The pause of the trials came after reports that the United States was aiming for fast-track authorization or approval of a vaccine before November’s presidential election.
Leading U.S. and European vaccine developers have pledged to uphold scientific safety and efficacy standards for their experimental vaccines and not bow to political pressures to rush the process.
AstraZeneca has already agreed to supply close to three billion doses to governments across the globe – more than any other vaccine project.
The WHO’s chief scientist said the pause in the trial should serve as a “wake-up” call that there would be ups and downs in the development of a vaccine.
(Reporting by Michael Holden; Additional reporting by Radhika Anilkumar in Bengaluru, Editing by William Maclean and Pravin Char)