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Oxford University says participant illness that halted its COVID-19 trial may not be linked to the vaccine

Published on 17/09/20 at 12:12pm
Photo by Retha Ferguson

The illness of one of the participants in the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine trial may not have been caused by the treatment itself, according to newly revealed information. 

The University of Oxford sent a document to other participants on the trials which said: “After independent review, these illnesses were either considered unlikely to be associated with the vaccine or there was insufficient evidence to say for certain that the illnesses were or were not related to the vaccine.”

The trials testing the vaccine have resumed in Britain, Brazil and South Africa after they were initially paused on 6 September. The American trials are still on a hiatus. 

It was paused for safety reasons after a participant developed unexplained neurological symptoms that included limb weakness. It is believed they were 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.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is seen to be one of the most promising in the world. It uses a weakened version of the common cold virus and the genetic material of COVID-19’s spike protein.  

Despite this setback, Paul Soriot, the Chief Executive of AstraZeneca believes the vaccine could still be available by the end of 2020, or early 2021, if it is granted regulatory approval in the coming months. 

Conor Kavanagh

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