Sep 17, 2020
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Volunteer symptoms likely not related to AstraZeneca vaccine – experts

In a memo for participants in clinical trials of a coronavirus vaccine, the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca team stated that the volunteer's illness was most likely not related to the drug administration.

Ekaterina Evchenko

Background to the issue

The third phase of clinical trials of the vaccine was suspended last week after one of the participants was diagnosed with serious illness. Western media disseminated information that after the administration of the drug, the volunteer was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, an inflammatory syndrome that affects the spinal cord. An independent investigation was carried out over several days, during which it was required to establish whether the disease was a side effect of the vaccine. On September 12, the studies were resumed, data on the patient's health were not disclosed. It is assumed that at least 30,000 people will take part in the research.

Vaccine developer comment

“In ongoing studies, we have conducted several safety assessments where participants in the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 trial developed neurological symptoms of unclear etiology, including weakness or sensory changes in the limbs, and discontinued the trial. An independent review has shown that there is little likelihood of a link between these symptoms and the administration of the vaccine, or that there is insufficient data to say with certainty whether these diseases are related to the vaccine or not, ”the memo says.

The document also states that administration of any vaccine can cause side effects, including complex and potentially fatal diseases such as acute allergic reactions and Guillain-Barré syndrome.

The reaction of the scientific community

Note that the news about the suspension of clinical trials was very ambiguously received by the scientific community. In their comments, representatives of AstraZeneca stated that the suspension of research indicates that the pharmaceutical company is very responsible for the safety of the vaccine. The Conversation, an online platform for the publication of opinions of the academic scientific community, released an article by Queen Mary University professor Duncan Matthews, who recalled that the pharmaceutical giant announced the suspension of trials only after it was asked about it by journalists from STAT News ... It also turned out that this is not the first time research has been paused - a similar situation was in July, when one of the volunteers also had neurological symptoms. This fact was hidden from the public.

“Given the world's attention to the vaccine race, the lack of publicly available information from the company and other project partners is surprising. Note that this is happening in an environment where many people are reluctant to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccine safety uncertainty and skepticism were common before the pandemic, and the situation is not improving. At least one third of Americans are ready to refuse vaccination, while in the UK only half of the population is ready to be vaccinated, ”the professor said and urged participants in the vaccine race to be more open.

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