Covid vaccine could take years as top trial suspended
Madrid Desk, Sept 9 (efe-epa).- British health minister Matt Hancock said Wednesday that the suspension of a Covid-19 vaccine trial developed by Oxford University is “not necessarily” a setback.
Pharmacist AstraZeneca, which is developing the vaccine in conjunction with the British university, announced on Tuesday that it was pausing testing after a volunteer in the United Kingdom suffered an adverse reaction.
The potential immunization, considered one of the most advanced being developed worldwide, was in the final stages of clinical trials before receiving regulatory approval.
Hancock told Sky News: “It is obviously a challenge to this particular vaccine.”
He added that it was not the first time it has happened to an Oxford vaccine and is “standard process in clinical trials whenever they find something that they need to investigate”.
Asked if it would delay attempts to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, he replied: “Not necessarily, it depends on what they find when they do the investigation.”
The potential vaccine, which gave promising results in the first trials, was undergoing clinical tests in the UK, United States, Brazil and South Africa.
AstraZeneca’s shares fell more than 6 percent on Tuesday and its London-listed shares dropped by 0.4 percent as European markets opened on Wednesday.
The World Health Organization’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said “we shouldn’t be surprised” that the trial was paused.
She added that the safety of any immunization is “first and foremost” and warned that she does not expect vaccines to be available to the general public for two years.
“Just because we talk about speed – it doesn’t mean we start compromising or cutting corners on what would normally be assessed,” she said in a social media event.
“The process still has to follow through rules of the game.
“For drugs and vaccines which are given to people, you have to test their safety, first and foremost.”
Swaminathan said that in the most optimistic scenario, the first vaccines will arrive in several countries in the middle of next year and priority will go to the highest-risk groups as it will not be possible to produce doses for the whole society.
The WHO is urging countries to join a global coalition in a bid to ensure fair distribution of any Covid-19 vaccines and treatments.
Some nations have brokered their own vaccine deals, including the United States, which will not join the WHO initiative.
Covax is one of three pillars of the WHO’s Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator and aims to secure enough vaccines to deliver two billion doses by the end of 2021.
It came as Pope Francis criticized those who want to appropriate vaccines and take political and economic advantage of the coronavirus pandemic.
He said at his weekly general audience that the world can emerge from the coronavirus crisis better than before “if we all seek the common good together.”
“A virus that does not recognise barriers, borders, or cultural or political distinctions must be faced with a love without barriers, borders or distinctions,” he added.