More Troubling Events In The Rush To Find Covid-19 Vaccine

Johnson & Johnson, one of four U.S. companies whose Covid-19 vaccine has advanced to the last phase of clinical trials, has hit pause on a study of 60,000 patients due to a case of “unexplained illness,” according to an official announcement released last week. Whether the illness was caused by the vaccine or a placebo remains unknown.

The temporary pause, their statement goes on to clarify, differs from a clinical hold, which fellow vaccine developer AstraZeneca initiated after a participant in a U.K. trial developed serious neurological symptoms. Under normal (which is to say pre-Covid) circumstances, the interruption of the Johnson & Johnson trial would go unreported—so expected is it in a study that large. But it could be millions, not tens of thousands, who potentially receive this vaccine, and as such even the slightest hiccups warrant scrutiny.

The same could be said for yesterday’s report that one of the participants in the AstraZeneca trial in Brazil has died, though the independent safety and monitoring committee that evaluated the case ultimately made the decision not to pause the trial. While their judgment gives us reason to believe that the death was unrelated to the vaccine or placebo that participant received, it still chalks up as yet another—and not likely the last—complication that AstraZeneca has noted but barreled past. 

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Originally published on Forbes (October 22, 2020)

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.