Experts Unsure Of Where A Covid-19 Vaccine Will Come From As Oxford Trial Is Put On Pause

After the front-runner vaccine trial from Oxford University was put on hold, experts began to wonder where the first safe and effective vaccine against Covid-19 will actually come from.

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The Oxford University vaccine initially looked like it was the one to beat, as Oxford has been working on it since the pandemic first began. US President Donald Trump was so confident in Oxford’s ability to create a vaccine that he even was considering pushing for it to be fast-tracked in the US, however, that also had to do with him trying to get a vaccine distributed before the November election. 

But the phase 3 trial for the vaccine, however, has been put on hold. Phase 3 is the most important phase of a vaccine’s trial period as it’s the part of the trial where tens of thousands of people are given it and monitored long-term. However, researchers are indefinitely pausing the trial after one of the UK volunteers fell sick this week. 

Other studies around the world that are showing promising results for a potential Covid-19 vaccine include ones in the US, Brazil, and South Africa; these countries also have some of the highest infection/death rates from the coronavirus. Sir Jeremy Farrar is an infectious diseases specialist who recently spoke with the media about the complexities of vaccine development, and how it can be extremely disheartening to watch a vaccine get created and then end up failing. 

“Vaccine development is an inherently risky endeavor, and you cannot back a single candidate. You have to have a portfolio and be pragmatic that not all of these vaccines in late stage development will make it through.”

Farrar went on to explain that safety is obviously the most important aspect of any vaccine, which is why the large-scale nature of Phase 3 is so crucial to the development process. The follow-ups that occur with these volunteers even years after the study takes place is vital for a vaccine’s licensing and adjustments in the future. 

Farrar himself is also a member of the UK government’s Sage Scientific Advisory Body, and recently called upon the countries around the world currently in the later stages of their Covid-19 vaccine development to share their data the same way Oxford and AstraZeneca has throughout this pandemic. It is “absolutely critical that [scientists everywhere] know what’s happening in the US and Europe and China and Russia and everywhere else developing these vaccines.” 

He believes that one of the biggest downfalls that can come from these developments is the “race” aspect of it all. This isn’t like the moon landing, this is a global pandemic in which hundreds of thousands have died, so creating a vaccine needs to be a group effort. 

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“There is no value in vaccine nationalism. It’s not the way out of the pandemic, it’ll slow things down and we have no idea where the best vaccine that is safe and effective will come from.”

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Matt Hancock is the UK’s health secretary and also spoke with the press about his vaccine concerns, claiming that he’s more so worried Oxford decided to pause their trial after they already had to one other time for a similar reason. “This is a normal part of a vaccine development that, when you find a problem, the system is paused while you investigate that particular problem. What it underlines is that we won’t bring forward a vaccine unless it is safe, no matter how enthusiastic I am for a vaccine.”

He went on to explain how this vaccine’s development is obviously uncharted territory for everybody, so while it’s frustrating that the process keeps getting delayed, it’s necessary to ensure that the final product is safe. The delay “isn’t a setback,” but has the potential to become one depending on what’s discovered during the investigation. When Oxford had to pause development after another subject got sick earlier in the summer, the investigation proved nothing was really wrong and the trial continued, so researchers are hoping for the same thing here. 

Hancock told the press that while there’s one main vaccine that’s looking to be the most hopeful, the UK “has other irons in the fire.” The government has already apparently ordered 340 million doses of six different vaccine options, that amount of dosage is “far more than what is needed for the UK population.”

A spokesperson for AstraZeneca recently released a statement about the sick individual that’s causing the trial to be delayed, and claimed that the “adverse reaction to the vaccine was only recorded in a single participant,” adding that pausing trials is common during vaccine development.” 

Until this investigation is completed Oxford’s trial will remain on pause, and for now the world will just have to continue to wait and see when and where a safe Covid-19 vaccine comes from.