‘What we have to remember is that in any large trial the normal processes of morbidity and mortality are still operating. The trial should continue to bring the vaccine to a decision point as soon as possible.’
Professor Ian Jones, Virologist – University of Reading
(CMR) A 28-year-old Brazilian doctor who was a participant in an Oxford coronavirus vaccine trial has died but the companies have shared that there are no immediate concerns because he has received the placebo and not the actual vaccine.
The Federal University of Sao Paulo, though tight-lipped on the matter, disclosed that the man was a volunteer; whilst Brazil’s health authority, Anvisa, has not provided any details citing confidentiality protocols. They were informed of the death on Monday, October 19.
Brazilian newspaper Globo and news agency Bloomberg said the doctor was in a controlled group for this trial had worked with infected COVID-19 patients. Dr. João Pedro R. Feitosa, 28, is reported to have subsequently died from complications of Covid-19 on October 15. He has been treating COVID-19 patience since March in the emergency rooms snd intensive care units at two hospitals in Rio de Janeiro.
His family and friends told Globo newspaper that he just completed medical school last year and was in good health prior to contracting the disease. He was described by his girlfriend on social media as “an exemplary medic”.
“Following careful assessment of this case in Brazil, there have been no concerns about the safety of the clinical trial, and the independent review in addition to the Brazilian regulator have recommended that the trial should continue,” Oxford Univerity said in a statement.
This COVID-19 vaccine is being developed by AstraXeneca and Oxford University and will continue despite the death. Half of the volunteers in the trial are given the actual vaccine. The second group was given an existing licensed vaccine for meningitis. Neither the participant nor their families know which vaccine they are being given.
A spokesperson from AstraZeneca declined to comment on the volunteer, citing “medical confidentiality and clinical trial regulations.”
It is understood that the Brazilian government already has plans underway to purchase the vaccine and produce it at its biomedical research centre if it is approved. There are high hopes that this vaccine will be one of the first to make it market. However, trials of the Oxford vaccine were paused last month after a reported side effect in a patient in the UK; but were resumed days later after it was deemed safe to continue.
Phase 3 trials in the US remain on hold as regulators there conduct their own assessment; they may restart within the week.
The country has over 5.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases, the third-highest in the world after the US and India and is only second to the US in terms of death with more than 155,000 confirmed dead.