LONDON — Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca will resume its coronavirus vaccine trial in the U.K., the company said on Saturday, after pausing the trials last week when a participant became ill.
“Clinical trials for the AstraZeneca Oxford coronavirus vaccine, AZD1222, have resumed in the U.K. following confirmation by the Medicines Health Regulatory Authority that it was safe to do so,” the company said in a statement.
Last week “a voluntary pause to vaccination across all global trials” was triggered after a participant fell ill, AstraZeneca said, adding that it couldn’t disclose medical information about the unwell participant for confidentiality reasons.
An independent review process and a British medical regulator has now recommended “that trials in the U.K. are safe to resume” and given the green light for them to recommence, it said.
AstraZeneca has partnered with the University of Oxford to sponsor the vaccine trial that until the recent pause had shown promising results.
“We are committed to the safety of our participants and the highest standards of conduct in our studies, and will continue to monitor safety closely,” the University of Oxford said in a separate statement on Saturday.
About 18,000 individuals have received study vaccines as part of the trial, the statement said.
AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot told a press event on Thursday that the company should know before the end of the year whether its experimental vaccine can indeed protect people from COVID-19.
Soriot acknowledged the huge public scrutiny of the pharmaceutical trial.
“The difference with other vaccine trials is the whole world is not watching them,” he said Thursday.
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The Oxford clinical trials are the third Phase 3 trials to begin in the U.S. Pfizer and Moderna began their Phase 3 trials in late July and have already enrolled about 30,000 volunteers.
On Friday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that daily life in the U.S. may not get back to normal until late 2021, when potentially a vaccine could be widely distributed.
The Oxford vaccine uses a type of virus called an adenovirus to teach the immune system how to make antibodies to attack the coronavirus’ so-called spike protein. It is that spike protein that allows the virus to infect human cells.
AstraZeneca has already said it would work with health authorities around the world to supply around three billion doses of the vaccine “equitably,” to countries including Russia, China, the U.S. and Brazil.
COVID-19 has so far killed more than 900,000 globally, according to Johns Hopkins University data on Saturday.