A volunteer involved in the clinical trial of the Covid-19 vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University has died in Brazil, authorities have said, although the trial will not be suspended as a result.
Oxford University stressed that there were no concerns about the safety of its vaccine candidate, and that it plans to keep the trial going without interruption.
A source was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying the trial would have been paused if anyone who received the real vaccine had died, indicating that the volunteer who died must have been part of a control group that was given a meningitis jab instead.
The University of Sao Paulo, which is coordinating phase three trials in Brazil, confirmed that the deceased volunteer was Brazilian but didn’t reveal any more personal details. It claimed that an independent review committee also recommended the continuation of the trials
However, a CNN Brasil report said the volunteer was a 28-year-old man who lived in Rio de Janeiro, and that he died from Covid-19 complications.
In a statement, the university said the trial was proceeding as expected, without any record of serious vaccine-related complications involving any of the participating volunteers.
According to a university spokesperson, 8,000 of the 10,000 volunteers participating in the trial across six Brazilian cities have received the first dose, and many have also received a second shot.
Brazil has the second-highest number of Covid-19 deaths in the world at more than 154,000. About 5.2 million people have been infected by coronavirus in the south American country so far – the third highest tally in the world behind only the US and India.
There are almost a dozen potential vaccines in advanced stages of testing across the world, with large scale trials being conducted in countries including the US, Russia, China and India.
Brazil had announced on Tuesday that it had reached a deal to acquire and produce 46 million doses of a Chinese-made vaccine that is currently being tested by Sao Paulo state’s research centre, the Butantan Institute.
But a day later, president Jair Bolsonaro tweeted that Brazil would not, in fact, acquire the Chinese Sinovac Biotech vaccine, claiming it had not been sufficiently tested. “The Brazilian people will not be anyone's guinea pig,” he said.