Oxford Coronavirus Vaccine Study Placed On Hold

September 9th, 2020   admin   Health and Wellness Tags: , ,

As wildfires and a massive heat wave roll across the west coast and Louisiana recovers from the aftermath of Hurricane Laura, the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.  With the disease having kept people in lock-down for over six months and rising fears that the approaching flu season could create a ‘twindemic,’ eagerness for a Coronavirus vaccine has begun to mount.

It was initially estimated that a vaccine against COVID-19 would be a while in the making.  Software developer, business magnate, and philanthropist Bill Gates warned that it would likely be towards the end of 2020, or even the start of 2021, before a vaccine (or multiple) was made available.  On Tuesday September 8, Fauci reaffirmed that it currently seems unlikely that a vaccine will be ready in time for the 2020 presidential election.  Instead, he stated that an end-of-the-year rollout looks more probable.

Fauci’s words put him in stark contrast to Trump, who stated during a Monday press conference that a vaccine would be available “very soon”—seeming to hint that it would be ready in time for election day, claiming that the vaccine might even available before “a very special date.  You know what date I’m talking about.”

Though estimates of the amount of time remaining before a vaccine is available vary, the United States will not be the first to approve one.  President Putin announced the approval of a new vaccine in Russia on August 11 of this year.  The Russian vaccine—dubbed Sputnik-V—does appear to induce a strong immune response, though some medical professionals caution that immune response does not necessarily indicate the degree of protection the vaccine will provide, and some concerns remain over the speed of Sputnik-V’s approval remain.

Other vaccines still in development have been the object of similar trepidation.  Clinical trials for one promising potential COVID-19 vaccine at the University of Oxford have been temporarily halted after a patient fell ill.

These clinical trials are often vital to discerning the effectivity and safety of a vaccine.  Oxford’s now-paused vaccine was being developed in conjunction with drug maker AstraZeneca.  In the company’s statement, they claimed that their “standard review process was triggered”—presumably when the participant fell ill—and that they “voluntarily paused vaccination to allow review of safety data by an independent committee.” 

The patient’s condition, according U.S. National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, appears to be a case of transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord that interrupts the messages the spinal cord sends through the body. 

It is currently unknown whether this illness was an adverse reaction to the vaccine or if it was merely coincidental.  Though other doctors and AstraZeneca representatives claim that it is not uncommon for illnesses during clinical trials to be a matter of coincidence, the situation will be reviewed to discern whether or not the trials should resume, and if they need to be altered in any way before they do. 

Should review reveal that the adverse reaction was caused by the vaccine, Collins told a Senate committee that all manufactured doses will be discarded.

In the meantime, the heads of nine major pharmaceutical and biotech companies—including AstraZeneca—have released a pledge promising to uphold ethical and scientific standards.  Many US citizens have come to view the COVID-19 pandemic as a point of political contention, something which may potentially stigmatize the vaccine, even beyond the previously-existing anti-vaxxer movement and debunked conspiracy theories that Bill Gates wants to use the vaccine to implant ‘tracking devices.’  A STAT-Harris survey suggests that 72% of Republicans and 82% of Democrats would worry about the safety of the vaccine if it was approved quickly. 

The pharmaceutical companies’ statement attempts to reassure people with a vow that they will only seek approval for a vaccine that is demonstrably safe. 

“We want to make clear our on-going commitment to developing and testing potential vaccines for COVID-19 in accordance with high ethical standards and sound scientific principles,” the statement says.

By Leslie Williams

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