UK-based pharma giant AstraZeneca Plc's CEO Pascal Soriot has said that the company is still aiming for the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine to be ready by this year-end.
Speaking during an online conference on Thursday, he sought to reassure investors after halting the late-stage clinical trials of its coronavirus vaccine because of a possible adverse reaction in a study participant.
AstraZeneca is developing a vaccine candidate- AZD1222- in collaboration with the University of Oxford.
"What we have here is a special set of circumstances where the whole world becomes involved in the conduct of a clinical trial," Soriot stated in his first public comments since the clinical test was paused earlier this week, Bloomberg reported.
He further added that the decision to resume the trials rests with a group of independent experts who are conducting a review of safety data whereby they are working to understand if the volunteer's condition was coincidental or a result of the vaccine. Soriot stated that there is no choice for now, but to be "very patient and see how it unfolds".
AstraZeneca suspended late-stage trials of its coronavirus vaccine this week after an illness in a participant in Britain. The patient was reportedly suffering from symptoms associated with a rare spinal inflammatory disorder called transverse myelitis.
Soriot said during an online event that AstraZeneca did not yet know the diagnosis, adding that it was not clear if the volunteer had transverse myelitis and more tests were needed.
He said the diagnosis would be submitted to an independent safety committee and this would usually then tell the company whether trials could be resumed.
Soriot said that the potential vaccine, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has flagged as the most promising for coronavirus, that it was usual for a trial to be suspended.
"It's very common, actually, and many experts will tell you this," Soriot said, adding, "The difference with other vaccine trials is, the whole world is not watching them, of course. They stop, they study, and they restart."
AstraZeneca would supply vaccines to countries at the same time to ensure a fair and equitable distribution, Soriot said, adding that the company was close to having the capacity to produce 3 billion doses at sites set up around the world to prevent governments from restricting distribution.