AstraZeneca CEO Says Coronavirus Vaccine Could Still Be Available This Year, Despite Pause In Research

The CEO of pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Thursday that the coronavirus vaccine that the company is testing could still be ready by the end of the year, despite the fact that the company paused the clinical trials of the medicine after a test subject got sick.

As previously reported by The Inquisitr, AstraZeneca is among the multiple drug manufacturers working on getting a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, as soon as possible, despite the fact that the process normally takes years. The Cambridge, England-based manufacturer has been conducting large-scale clinical trials involving thousands of volunteers on the so-called "Oxford Vaccine" -- developed in conjunction with a team from the British university -- that so far appears to be one of the best candidates for a safe and effective immunization.

However, this week the manufacturer announced that a test subject had experienced an unspecified adverse reaction to whatever was injected into them. As such, the researchers paused the tests so that an independent, third-party review board can get to the bottom of what happened.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S.' top infectious disease specialist, noted earlier this week that such pauses are not uncommon in the drug industry. He added that the system is in place to protect the health and safety of the test subjects, among other things.

a patient is given an injection
Getty Images | Leonardo Fernandez Viloria

Unfortunately, that means that the timetable for getting the vaccine deployed could be delayed.

As NBC News reported, AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot believes that the timetable of having the vaccine ready by the end of the year is still achievable -- provided the review committee acts quickly.

"If the review by the safety committee allowed us to restart the trial, I still think we are on track for having a set of data that we would submit before the end of the year," he said.

He also reiterated what Fauci and others have said -- such pauses are routine in the drug-manufacturing business.

"What happened here is not uncommon. The process is always in vaccine trials, that if you have an event that you didn't expect, that you stop to look at it and explore it and study it."
Meanwhile, questions remain about what effects, if any, the pause in research will have on the perception of the vaccine, should it ultimately be approved and deployed. Some experts are reportedly concerned that the manufacturer's announcement lacked transparency and could undermine confidence in the vaccine.

Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, noted that, combined with the existing anti-vaccine movement, it may be a hard sell to convince Americans to trust the AstraZeneca inoculation.

"The public should not be afraid," he added.