Coronavirus: AstraZeneca vaccine trial participant developed neurological symptoms, report says

Coronavirus: AstraZeneca vaccine trial participant developed neurological symptoms

The CEO of AstraZeneca, one of several pharmaceutical companies testing vaccines for COVID-19, told investors on a private call Wednesday morning that the company’s Phase 3 vaccine trials were paused Tuesday after a woman participating in the trial developed neurological symptoms, according to STAT News.

Company officials on Tuesday announced they were pausing all trials worldwide of AZD1222, the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University, after a person participating in Phase 3 trials in the U.K. fell ill without explanation. In a news release Tuesday, AstraZeneca noted that illnesses sometimes happen by chance in large clinical trials and that such a pause is routine “whenever there is a potentially unexplained illness.”

AstraZeneca’s CEO, Pascal Soriot, said Wednesday that a woman developed symptoms which appeared to be consistent with transverse myelitis, STAT News reported. Symptoms of the disorder, which is caused by an inflammation of the spinal cord, typically include weakness in the arms or legs, sensory symptoms like numbness or tingling, pain and bladder or bowel dysfunction, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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As of Wednesday, the woman’s diagnosis had yet to be confirmed, according to STAT News. Soriot said the woman’s condition was improving and that she could be discharged from a hospital soon, the news site reported.

The pause Tuesday was not the first for clinical trials of AZD1222. Soriot said trials were paused in July after a person developed neurological symptoms, but that they resumed after the person was diagnosed with unrelated multiple sclerosis, according to STAT News.

Officials with AstraZeneca began Phase 3 clinical trials of its vaccine candidate in the U.S. late last month. The trial was expected to include as many as 30,000 adults from various racial, ethnic and geographic groups.

Two other vaccine candidates began final testing this summer in tens of thousands of people in the U.S. One was created by the National Institutes of Health and manufactured by Moderna Inc., and the other developed by Pfizer Inc. and Germany’s BioNTech.

Health officials in the U.S. have said they expect to see a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year.

The United States leads the world with the most coronavirus cases and the highest death toll. Since the start of the pandemic, officials have confirmed more than 6.3 million infections and reported more than 189,000 deaths nationwide, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins.

As of Wednesday, more than 27.6 million COVID-19 cases have been reported worldwide and more than 898,000 people have died of the viral infection, according to Johns Hopkins.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.