Fauci says Astrazeneca vaccine pause unfortunate, not uncommon

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies during the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., July 31, 2020. Kevin Dietsch/Pool via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said on Wednesday that AstraZeneca’s decision to pause global trials of its experimental coronavirus vaccine was unfortunate but not an uncommon safety precaution in a vaccine development process.

AstraZeneca said on Tuesday it voluntarily paused trials, including late-stage ones, after an unexplained illness in a participant, to allow an independent committee to review safety data. It was working to expedite the review to minimize any potential impact on the trial timeline.

Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the pause was not uncommon in vaccine development and that he hoped the company could proceed with its trial.

“This particular candidate from the AstraZeneca company had a serious adverse event, which means you put the rest of the enrollment of individual volunteers on hold until you can work out precisely what went on,” Fauci said in an interview with CBS “This Morning.”

“It’s really one of the safety valves that you have on clinical trials such as this, so it’s unfortunate that it happened,” Fauci said. “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.”

The vaccine, which AstraZeneca is developing with the University of Oxford, has been described by the World Health Organization as probably the world’s leading candidate and the most advanced in terms of development. Tuesday’s move was seen as dimming prospects for an early rollout.

Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Chizu Nomiyama