Oxford University Covid-19 vaccine trials restart after volunteer death in Brazil

21 October 2020, 23:23 | Updated: 21 October 2020, 23:26

Coronavirus vaccine trials have restarted after the death of a volunteer
Coronavirus vaccine trials have restarted after the death of a volunteer. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Trials of an Oxford University coronavirus vaccine will continue in Brazil after reports that a volunteer who died was given a placebo.

The university is in the advanced stages of testing a Covid-19 immunisation being developed with AstraZeneca, with volunteers in countries including Brazil, the UK and the US.

The institution told reporters it has investigated the case but found "no concerns about safety" around the vaccine

It said: "Following careful assessment of this case in Brazil, there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial, and the independent review in addition to the Brazilian regulator have recommended that the trial should continue."

Read more: Covid vaccine 'unlikely' to fully stop virus, Sir Patrick Vallance says

Read more: ‘Human challenge’ study will see patients infected with Covid-19 for vaccine research

Brazil's health authority said it was informed of the death of a participant earlier this week.

According to local media reports, the volunteer had actually been given a placebo jab rather than the vaccine.

AstraZeneca said it could not comment on individual cases due to patient confidentiality, but said all due processes had been followed and there were no issues with the trial continuing.

A spokesperson said: "All significant medical events are carefully assessed by trial investigators, an independent safety monitoring committee and the regulatory authorities.

"These assessments have not led to any concerns about continuation of the ongoing study."

In June, Brazil's government announced a deal with Oxford University and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to purchase 100 million doses of its potential coronavirus vaccine.

Read more: Covid vaccines should be available early next year, doctor tells Lionel Barber

Meanwhile Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday overruled his own Health Minister who announced purchase of 46 million doses of CoronaVac.

"The Brazilian people will not be anyone's guinea pig," Mr Bolsonaro said on his social media channels, adding the shot made by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac is yet to finish its testing phase - true of all potential vaccines.

It is common practice for governments to purchase doses of promising vaccines to build a stockpile in case they are proven effective, as has been done in the UK.