The clinical trials of the vaccine against COVID-19 that are being developed by the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford will be resumed. The academic institution said this weekend that it considers safe to go ahead with the tests, which were interrupted after a volunteer in the United Kingdom reported a serious side effect.
The vaccine is considered a strong competitor among the dozens that are being developed in different parts of the world. The University of Oxford said in a statement that some participants were expected to feel unwell in large trials like this one. The government’s top scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, echoed this view, saying at a press conference that what had happened in the Oxford trial was not unusual.
The university added that studies could now be resumed following the recommendations of an independent safety review committee and the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.
Oxford University said it would not release information about the patient’s illness for confidentiality reasons, but the New York Times reported that a volunteer had been diagnosed with transverse myelitis, an inflammatory syndrome that affects the spinal cord and may be caused by viral infections.
Much hope for progress
There is hope that this vaccine could be the first to hit the market, after the successful trials in phases 1 and 2. The move to phase 3 in recent weeks has involved some 30,000 participants in the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa. Vaccine trials in this phase often involve thousands of participants and can last several years.
Risk of “losing control”
The World Health Organization (WHO) says nearly 180 potential vaccines are being tested worldwide, but none have completed clinical trials. Professor Mark Walport, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Council for Emergencies (SAGE), warned that the UK was “on the brink of losing control of the virus.” “You just have to look across the [English Channel] to see what is happening in France and Spain,” Walport said on the BBC’s Today program.
Both France and Spain have taken new measures to contain a “second wave”, which in the case of Spain has broken records compared to the one in April.
In the UK, official figures released this past weekend showed 3,497 more people tested positive for the virus. It is the second consecutive day that the number of registered daily cases exceeds 3,000.
The total number of confirmed cases so far is 365,174. Additionally, nine more people have died in the 28 days after testing positive for COVID-19, bringing the death toll in the UK to 41,623. These figures indicate that the Coronavirus epidemic in the UK is growing again, after the R number, the virus’s reproduction rate, rose to between 1 and 1.2 for the first time since March.