Saturday, 26 Sep 2020

Bangla Version

Covid vaccine still possible this year

No icon Pharmaceuticals

Health Desk: Sep 11, 2020: Drugs giant AstraZeneca Thursday said a Covid-19 vaccine could still be available by as early as the end of the year, despite a randomised clinical trial being paused.

"We could still have a vaccine by the end of this year, early next year," the UK-based company's chief executive Pascal Soriot said in comments at a media event.

AstraZeneca announced Wednesday it had "voluntarily paused" its trial of a drug developed alongside Oxford University after a UK volunteer developed an unexplained illness.

An independent committee was drafted in to review safety but the company said it was a "routine action" designed to maintain the integrity of the trials.

"We will be guided by this committee as to when the trials could restart, so that we can continue our work at the earliest opportunity," Soriot said in a statement.

AstraZeneca's vaccine candidate is one of nine around the world currently in late-stage Phase 3 human trials.

Meanwhile, Serum Institute of India has put on hold trials of AstraZeneca's vaccine in the country until the British drugmaker restarts them, the company said yesterday.

"We are reviewing the situation and pausing India trials," Serum, the world's biggest vaccine manufacturer by volume, said in a brief statement.

The move to pause the trials in India comes after the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) V G Somani asked Serum for details on the suspension of trials overseas, in a show-cause notice that was reviewed by Reuters.

Somani asked the company to explain why the trials should not be suspended in India until patient safety is established and he warned Serum could face action if it did not offer an explanation.

Serum said yesterday that it was following the DCGI's directions and would not comment further on the matter.

The DCGI did not respond to an email seeking comment.

In the US, AstraZeneca began enrolling 30,000 volunteers across dozens of sites on August 31, and smaller groups are being tested in Brazil and elsewhere in South America.

The vaccine, called AZD1222, uses a weakened version of a common cold-causing adenovirus engineered to code for the spike protein that the coronavirus uses to invade cells.

After vaccination, this protein is produced inside the human body, which primes the immune system to attack the coronavirus if the person is later infected.

The director of UK scientific research charity the Wellcome Trust, Jeremy Farrar, said there were often pauses in vaccine trials.

He told BBC radio in an interview that it demonstrated the importance of conducting vaccine trials properly, with independent oversight and the involvement of the regulator.

"In the end the public must have absolute trust that these vaccines are safe and of course effective, and in the end will hopefully bring the pandemic to a close," he added.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the pause was "not necessarily" a set-back, and said a similar pause occurred recently but was "resolved without a problem".

The pandemic has killed at least 904,534 people worldwide since surfacing in China late last year, according to an AFP count yesterday based on official sources. More than 27.9 million cases have been confirmed.