Why did the Oxford vaccine trials stop?
Suspension of the Oxford vaccine trials. Because one of the volunteers trying the vaccine fell ill in Britain. Before proceeding, therefore, researchers should determine whether his illness is linked to the vaccine. In any case, this is not uncommon in vaccine trials – this is the second time this has happened. This is why very extensive tests are required: experts must rule out the possibility of some rare side effects. Indeed, a side effect that occurs in a ratio of one person per 10,000 is very difficult to detect in the initial tests or in a few thousand.
Do we know what disease it is?
It is said to be transverse myelitis although AstraZeneca does not confirm it. It is a disease of a neurological nature, of unknown etiology, which causes lesions within the spinal cord. Treatment is with steroids to fight inflammation, but the lesion may be permanent. Transverse myelitis has been linked to vaccination in the past but in very rare cases. A 2018 study based on thirty years of data from the US states that during this period a total of 119 people became ill with transverse myelitis, of which 90 were women and 29 men. The number is considered small in relation to the total number of vaccinated. About half of the patients had been vaccinated for hepatitis B,
How will this development affect the tests?
The researchers will examine the patient’s history in detail, as well as other information related to the disease itself, to determine if there is any correlation. The microscope will also include the dose of the vaccine the patient received as well as his general state of health. If any of these factors explain the onset of the disease, then it means that there is no risk to the other volunteers. Researchers involved in testing other vaccines – nine are being tested in this third phase – will certainly consider the possibility of detecting other cases.
Is this a result of the vaccine race?
Probably not. Although the tests started in record time, a lot of emphases were placed on safety and, with all the spotlights on, it is unlikely that researchers or the pharmaceutical industry would discount their work. This could be done if the tests lasted for years instead of a few months.
Will there be other consequences?
Given the overwhelming attention given to vaccine trials for Covid-19, it is likely that the suspension of the trials will provoke public skepticism. In previous vaccine trials, we had not even had a holiday like this because we were not faced with a pandemic and the risks it poses to global health. This suspension will naturally become the bread and butter of anti-vaccination movements that have not stopped talking about the supposed dangers of the vaccine, to the point of saying that it is better for healthy people to get Covid-19 and recover. But this is not necessarily a safe route.
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