Johnson & Johnson pauses coronavirus vaccine trials after ‘unexplained illness’

Click to play video: 'Johnson & Johnson halts COVID-19 vaccine trial after participant falls ill'
Johnson & Johnson halts COVID-19 vaccine trial after participant falls ill
WATCH: Johnson & Johnson halts COVID-19 vaccine trial after participant falls ill – Oct 13, 2020

Johnson & Johnson has temporarily paused its clinical trials for a potential novel coronavirus vaccine after an “unexplained illness” in a study participant, the company said Monday.

In a statement posted to its website, the company said the person’s illness is being reviewed and evaluated by the independent Data Safety Monitoring Board along with the company’s own physicians.

Click to play video: 'When can Canadians expect a COVID-19 vaccine?'
When can Canadians expect a COVID-19 vaccine?
Story continues below advertisement

The company assured that such “serious adverse events” are not uncommon in clinical trials. It’s also not clear if the illness came from the vaccine candidate itself or from a placebo.

“Adverse events — illnesses, accidents, etc. — even those that are serious, are an expected part of any clinical study, especially large studies,” the company’s statement reads.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: FDA working to implement strict guidelines for emergency release of vaccine'
Coronavirus: FDA working to implement strict guidelines for emergency release of vaccine

The news comes just over a month after AstraZeneca halted its own trial for a vaccine being developed with Oxford University after a “potentially unexplained illness” in the United Kingdom. The trial resumed six days later.

The latest health and medical news emailed to you every Sunday.

Johnson & Johnson’s Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trials, which began in late September, are one of the largest in the world so far. The company is testing the shot in 60,000 volunteers in the U.S., South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

Story continues below advertisement

The potential vaccine, which is being developed by the company’s subsidiary Janssen in Belgium, is based on vector technology, the same used by AstraZeneca.

An early-to-mid stage clinical trial found the vaccine candidate produced a strong immune response against SARS-CoV-2, though it was unclear if older patients saw a similar result. The findings were published in late September.

No vaccine has completed Phase 3 trials yet anywhere in the world.

Click to play video: 'Canada signs new coronavirus vaccine deals'
Canada signs new coronavirus vaccine deals

New vaccines or drugs go through multiple stages of trials on humans, looking first to see if they are safe and cause no serious adverse reactions. Each phase adds more people, with usually fewer than a dozen to start, rising to tens of thousands by Phase 3.

Story continues below advertisement

Johnson & Johnson has not yet applied for Canadian approval. AstraZeneca was the first company to do so, submitting its application its first scientific results on Oct. 2. Pfizer followed on Friday.

In the last two months, Public Services and Procurement Canada has signed deals with the makers of six COVID-19 vaccines, including AstraZeneca, that will see Canada spend more than $1 billion to get guaranteed access to between 20 million and 76 million doses of each one if they are approved.

The U.S., which has signed off on and championed Johnson & Johnson and other private companies’ vaccine efforts, is pushing to have a worthy candidate approved before the end of the year.

—With files from the Associated Press

Sponsored content