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AstraZeneca Chief Executive says vaccine is still possible this year

Published on 10/09/20 at 01:18pm
Photo by D Wells

Pascal Soriot, Chief Executive of AstraZeneca, said that the company’s vaccine could still be available this year, despite the clinical trials being paused after a participant became ill. 

AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford are collaborating on the vaccine and made the decision to halt testing to assess if the sudden illness was caused by their treatment. 

Soriot has stressed that it is common practice to halt clinical trials for such reasons, but was unable to say when the trial would get back underway. He said: “I still think we are on track for having a set of data that we would submit before the end of the year for regulatory approval. We could still have a vaccine by the end of this year, early next year.”

There is speculation that the ill participant could be suffering from transverse myelitis, which is an inflammation of the sheath containing the nerves of the spinal cord. It can be treated with steroids but the condition can be permanent. 

It is an illness that has been associated with vaccinations before, although it is rare. A 2018 study published in Neurology, which analysed more than 30 years of data on US vaccines, found 119 cases of the condition in 29 men and 90 women, with half being recorded after vaccinations for hepatitis B. 

The collaboration between AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford began in April, with the UK Government initially injecting £20 million into the project. The project is also being funded by the US through its Operation Warp Speed programme. 

Conor Kavanagh

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