Advertisement

AstraZeneca pauses COVID-19 vaccine trial after unexplained illness in U.K.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: AstraZeneca pauses COVID-19 vaccine trial after participant gets unexplained illness' Coronavirus: AstraZeneca pauses COVID-19 vaccine trial after participant gets unexplained illness
WATCH: AstraZeneca pauses COVID-19 vaccine trial after participant gets unexplained illness

A study testing a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford has been put on hold over a “potentially unexplained illness” in the United Kingdom.

Oxford University partnered with AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company, to produce 2 billion doses of the vaccine.

Read more: Here’s when experts say Oxford University’s coronavirus vaccine could be ready

In a statement Tuesday, a spokesperson from AstraZeneca said the company’s “standard review process triggered a pause to vaccination to allow review of safety data.”

“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 statement read.

Story continues below advertisement

The statement said in large trials illnesses happen “by chance,” but must be “independently reviewed to check this carefully.”

The company said it is “working to expedite the review of the single event” to “minimize any potential impact on the trial timeline.”

Click to play video 'Fauci on his fears, a COVID-19 vaccine, Canada-U.S. border restrictions' Fauci on his fears, a COVID-19 vaccine, Canada-U.S. border restrictions
Fauci on his fears, a COVID-19 vaccine, Canada-U.S. border restrictions

It’s likely the unexplained illness was serious enough to require hospitalization and not a mild side effect such as fever or muscle pain, said Deborah Fuller, a University of Washington researcher who is working on a different COVID-19 vaccine that has not yet started human testing.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

“This is not something to be alarmed about,” Fuller said. Instead, it’s reassuring that the company is pausing the study to figure out what’s happening and carefully monitoring the health of study participants.

Read more: 9 drugmaker executives testing coronavirus vaccines pledge safety, high standards

Story continues below advertisement

In a tweet Tuesday evening, Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University, said this “may not be a big deal,” adding that the illness may be unrelated to the vaccine.

“But the important part is that this is why we do trials before rolling out a vaccine to the general public,” she wrote.

The Oxford University vaccine is one of many being tested to determine if they are safe and effective at treating the novel coronavirus.

Earlier on Tuesday, nine leading U.S. and European vaccine developers pledged to uphold scientific safety and efficacy standards for their experimental vaccines despite the urgency to contain the pandemic.

The companies, including AstraZeneca, Pfizer Inc and GlaxoSmithKline, issued what they called a “historic pledge” after a rise in concern that safety standards might slip in the face of political pressure to rush out a vaccine.

The companies said they would “uphold the integrity of the scientific process as they work towards potential global regulatory filings and approvals of the first COVID-19 vaccines.”

In a previous interview with Global News, Dr. Brian Dixon, a biology professor at the University of Waterloo and Canada Research Chair in Fish and Environmental Immunology, said third-stage trials are also when researchers determine if there are any severe side effects associated with the vaccine.

Story continues below advertisement

Read more: Developing coronavirus treatments ‘extremely important,’ experts say

He said these can include excessive fever causing hospitalization or disability and excessive swelling causing meningitis or Kawasaki disease.

According to Dixon, if more than one in 100,000 people have been found to experience severe side effects during a stage-three trial, the vaccine likely won’t be approved.

–With files from Reuters and The Associated Press

Click to play video 'Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine trials raises ethical concerns' Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine trials raises ethical concerns
Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine trials raises ethical concerns