Johnson & Johnson halt Covid-19 vaccine trial after 'unexplained illness'

13 October 2020, 08:23

The company declined to reveal any more details about the illness
The company declined to reveal any more details about the illness. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

A Covid-19 vaccine trial has been stopped while company Johnson & Johnson's investigate whether an "unexplained illness" is related to the shot.

The company said in a statement on Monday that illnesses, accidents and other so-called adverse events "are an expected part of any clinical study, especially large studies", but that its physicians and a safety monitoring panel would try to determine what might have caused the illness.

The pause is at least the second such hold to occur among several vaccines that have reached large-scale final tests in the US.

The company declined to reveal any more details about the illness, citing the participant's privacy.

Temporary stoppages of large medical studies are relatively common. Few are made public in typical drug trials, but the work to make a coronavirus vaccine has raised the stakes on these kinds of complications.

Companies are required to investigate any serious or unexpected reaction that occurs during drug testing.

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Given such tests are done on tens of thousands of people, some medical problems are a coincidence. One of the first steps the company said it would take would be to determine if the person received the vaccine or a placebo.

The halt was first reported by the health news site STAT.

Final-stage testing of a vaccine made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University remains on hold in the US as officials examine whether an illness in its trial poses a safety risk.

That trial was stopped when a woman developed severe neurological symptoms consistent with transverse myelitis, a rare inflammation of the spinal cord, the company has said. That company's testing has restarted elsewhere.

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The world is currently racing to find a viable vaccine to treat Covid-19.

In the Commons yesterday, Boris Johnson said a vaccine "cannot be taken for granted", as he ruled out smaller local lockdowns to contain the virus.

Some countries have suggested they will keep restrictions in place and may even impose new lockdowns until a vaccine is discovered.

The Prime Minister said earlier this month that the "scientific equation" would change in the upcoming months with vaccines and testing allowing the world to begin to stem the spread of the virus.

Mr Johnson had originally claimed that a vaccine might be ready for September earlier in the year.

Chief Medical Officer for England and Chief Medical Adviser to the Government, Chris Whitty, said: "I cannot predict, and no one can predict what are the combinations of treatments vaccines diagnostics and other interventions that we will have available to us.

"But I am extremely confident that when we go into next winter we will do so in a remarkably better place."

Read more: PM denies lockdown was eased too early in north of England