The delay in the final phase of human trials for AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine was described as a ‘wake up call’ by the World Health Organization (WHO).
AstraZeneca had announced the suspension of its phase three human trials all over the world of its vaccine candidate against Covid-19, caused by the novel coronavirus, for safety purposes after a woman volunteer fell ill for unexplained reasons. WHO said that this incident is a reminder that vaccine development is “not always a fast and a straight road.”
AstraZeneca is developing the vaccine together with the University of Oxford. The company has said that the delay was a “routine action” whenever there’s an unexplained illness under investigation.
There’s no need to be “overly discouraged” by the news of the delay in trials, said WHO Chief Scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathanm and added that “these things happen.”
“There’s a protocol for what you do when something happens,” Swaminathan said during a news briefing at the organization’s Geneva headquarters.
“If it’s a mild side effect, there are things to be done. If it’s major as it was in this case — it was a severe side event — and therefore the trial was halted. And again this is normal procedure. This is good clinical practice because safety is of the upmost, highest priority in any clinical trial.”
Swaminathan said that the WHO is awaiting more information provided by a data and safety monitoring board which is tasked whit assessing the situation and determining on how to proceed with the trials, even though the global health agency is hopeful that the vaccine’s trials will resume soon.
“I think this is a good … perhaps a wake-up call or a lesson for everyone to recognize the fact that there are ups and downs in research, there are ups and downs in clinical development and we have to be prepared for those,” she said. “We hope that things will be able to move on but again it depends. It depends on a lot, and we have to wait to see the details of what actually happened.”
Out of the three vaccine candidates in the world that are currently in late-stage human clinical trials, AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate is one of the strongest. The other two vaccine candidates are those of Pfizer and Moderna, both of which have started their phase three human trials in July.
The chief executive of AstraZeneca, Pascal Soriot, has however raised hopes that the company’s novel coronavirus vaccine could still be available by the end of the year, or early next year, despite the suspension of clinical trials for the vaccine candidate following the falling ill off a volunteer.
He has said that the company would come to know whether the about the efficacy of the vaccine by the end of the year if it was possible to resume trials soon.
Currently there are more than 160 vaccine candidates that are in their early stages of development while about 30 are in advanced human trial phases.
(Adapted from CNBC.com)