LONDON, 11 Sep (APM) - AstraZeneca and Oxford University's experimental vaccine for coronavirus could still be available by the end of the year despite the trial being paused after a patent fell ill, according to the company's chief executive Pascal Soriot.
His comments were widely picked up in the press on Thursday, including the Guardian, Financial Times, Times, Telegraph and Daily Mail.
Speaking at an event hosted by the media group Tortoise, Soriot said it was not unusual to pause trials because of "adverse events".
He was unable to say when the trial would resume, but said "I still think we are on track for having a set of data that we would submit before the end of the year" for regulatory approval. The company "could still have a vaccine by the end of this year, early next year", depending on how fast the regulator moves, he added.
Soriot also said the company did not know what illness the patient had, after reports the symptom were consistent with transverse myelitis. "We don’t know if it's transverse myelitis … We don't know what the final diagnosis is."
AstraZeneca/Oxford pause Covid-19 vaccine trial after patient falls ill
AstraZeneca and Oxford University's decision to pause trials for their experimental Covid-19 vaccine after a patient fell ill was widely covered on Wednesday (APMHE 68824
The Guardian quoted UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock who said he was not overly concerned about the decision.
"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," he told LBC radio, said the paper.
The Telegraph said as recently as Monday, that Hancock said the vaccine could be ready by "the early months of next year", adding that production on the UK's batch has already begun.
The Daily Mail said the development is a "major blow" to hopes for a vaccine to be ready by Christmas because the Oxford vaccine was considered by many to be the frontrunner.
The Times said the decision caused shares in AstraZeneca to fall as much as 2.8% on the London Stock Exchange. Oxford Biomedica, which has an agreement to manufacture the vaccine, saw shares fall as much as 13.4%, said the paper.
The FT said it is not unusual for clinical trials to be paused but described this as the "most scrutinised vaccine development process ever" and that any sign of potential negative effects could be seen as scuppering hopes to end the pandemic.
It quoted Paul Offit, an infectious disease expert on the FDA's vaccine advisory committee, who said AstraZeneca must investigate whether the side effect was caused by an immune reaction to the vaccine or is related to the patient's own medical history.
The Guardian on Wednesday quoted Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
"It's really one of the safety valves that you have on clinical trials such as this, so it’s unfortunate that it happened. Hopefully, they’ll work it out and be able to proceed along with the remainder of the trial but you don’t know. They need to investigate it further."
Experts concerned over pace of Covid-19 vaccine development
The Sunday Telegraph had an article featuring concerns from several experts about the potential to rush development of a coronavirus vaccine.
Commenters included professor Beate Kampmann, director of the Vaccine Centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who said launching a virus as early as October is "neither realistic, nor is it sensible".
She added: "It is highly politicised and I am not a fan of this approach."
Dr Stuart Blume, an expert in the history of vaccines at the University of the Netherlands told the paper: "We have never seen anything like this and the incentives to cut corners are greater than has ever been the case and that's the trouble.
"We all want a vaccine but the fact that it is taking place under these political and economic circumstances is disastrous in my view."
Trump and Biden clash on vaccine
Papers reported on clashes between President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden on the development of a Covid-19 vaccine.
The Times on Wednesday said Trump raised the possibility of a coronavirus vaccine being ready by the end of next month. Biden, however, has experesed concern about political interference in the vaccine approval process, said the paper.
It quoted Biden on Trump: "He’s said so many things that aren't true. I'm worried that if we do have a really good vaccine, people are going to be reluctant to take it."
Biden's running mate Kamala Harris also expressed concern, saying she "would not trust Donald Trump and it would have to be a credible source of information that talks about the efficacy and the reliability of whatever he's talking about".
Trump responded in his own press conference, saying they were propagating "fake rhetoric", which "undermines science" and is "endangering lives".
The FT also covered the comments from both sides, saying Biden and Trump have accused each other of politicising a vaccine, threatening to undermine public confidence.
The FT followed this up on Friday, talking to experts who said comments from Biden and Harris could pose a risk to public confidence in immunisation.
Heidi Larson, director of the vaccine confidence project at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, told the paper: "I have seen the way these theories work, what provokes fire and what does not. [Biden and Harris] are throwing fuel on this one."
She added: "One of the things that is going to affect confidence is that there is so much political back and forth. When people in authority seem confused, or are contradicting each other, that is not a good thing."
Pharma companies pledge that Covid-19 vaccine will be safe and effective
The chief executives of nine drug companies working on vaccines for coronavirus have pledged to "uphold the integrity of the scientific process", said The Times on Wednesday (APMHE 68815
All have committed "to developing and testing potential vaccines for Covid-19 in accordance with high ethical standards and sound scientific principles", said the paper.
The FT on Tuesday featured an opinions piece from Thomas Cueni, head of global pharma trade body IFPMA, emphasising that vaccine speed must not trump safety.
He said Russia's decision to approve mass use of a vaccine after just two months of trial is "deeply troubling".
"There is no place for political favour or national one-upmanship," said Cueni. "Only the most rigorous application of science and openness in the regulatory process can ensure that everyone, starting with healthcare workers, has confidence in Covid-19 vaccine once they have been properly approved."
Mixed views on public confidence in vaccines
The press had mixed reports on vaccine confidence among members of the public.
The Times and the FT on Friday covered the results of a survey published in The Lancet that said public trust in vaccines has risen over the past five years in Europe. The study is based on data from more than 284,000 adults across 149 countries.
The study authors said: "We find signs that confidence has improved between 2018 and 2019 in some EU member states, including Finland, France, Ireland, and Italy, with recent losses detected in Poland."
However, the Telegraph on Friday led with the angle that confidence in potential Covid-19 vaccines has fallen since the pandemic peaked in the spring, with early data suggesting an increasing number of people in the UK would refuse a jab.
It said around 5% of UK citizens surveyed in March said they would not take a coronavirus vaccine. The figure increased to 15% by June.
'Avoid false hope' for Covid-19 vaccine
The Observer on Sunday carried a comment piece from Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, warning that it is important to "avoid false hope" when it comes to the potential of a vaccine for Covid-19.
He said: "I am optimistic that we will soon see results from the first vaccines coming through late-stage clinical trials. However, we must temper this optimism, this talk of the perfect vaccine "just around the corner" or the idea that it will be a "complete and immediate solution".
Calls for cannabis to be available in UK for pain relief
The Telegraph at the weekend said that UK doctors are calling for elderly people with chronic pain including back and joint injuries to be prescribed cannabis instead of conventional painkillers.
The story is based on a poll by Open Cannabis, a campaign to widen access to cannabis medicines in the UK, that suggests almost three quarters of people over the age of 55 would consider cannabis medication if it was offered to them, compared to two-thirds of the population as a whole.
The poll comes after NICE published draft guidance suggesting prescription guidelines for patients with chronic pain will soon move away from drugs like paracetamol, ibuprofen, aspirin and opioid medications such as tramadol, codeine and morphine.