Two months after AstraZeneca touted trial data which suggested its SARS-COV-2 vaccine candidate would be safe for hman consumption, AZ, one of the global leaders in the race for a COVID-19 vaccine, dropped a bombshell on the market earlier this week: its vaccine candidate had produced an “adverse reaction” in one trial subject, prompting the project – being run in partnership with Oxford University – to temporarily halt.
Now, as the world rushes to reevaluate its expectations for the timing of the first emergency approvals from the FDA, AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said Thursday that the company should know before the end of the year whether its experimental vaccine actually can protect most of the population from COVID-19. That is, presuming the British drugmaker is allowed to resume trials, which were paused earlier this week, in short order.
“It’s very common, actually, and many experts will tell you this,” Soriot said before adding that “the difference with other vaccine trials is, the whole world is not watching them, of course. They stop, they study, and they restart.”
It’s still not clear whether the patient, who was reportedly suffering from symptoms associated with a rare spinal inflammatory disorder called “transverse myelitis”, was ill prior to being admitted. Soriot says more tests are needed, and that an independent board will ultimately decide whether the trial can resume.
Commenting on the latest ‘social justice’ scandal, Soriot reassured the public that AstraZeneca would “ensure a fair and equitable distribution” of the vaccine after critics accused it of favoring Britain, the US, Japan and Europe, after the company joined in on the latest trend of vaccine projects striking deals with developed-world governments.
Soriot added that the company was close to having capacity to produce 3 billion doses at sites the company has set up around the world, part of a plan to ensure governments can’t restrict or manipulate supplies of its vaccine.
The pharma giant, which has partnered with Oxford on the project, suspended a Phase 3, ie “late-stage”, trial of the experimental vaccine being developed with the University of Oxford. It is considered one of the frontrunners in the global push for a vaccine, a competition that has attracted more than 170 different projects.