AstraZeneca pauses coronavirus vaccine trial, shares slip on rollout doubts

LONDON (Reuters) – AstraZeneca’s (AZN.L) suspension of global trials of its experimental coronavirus vaccine after an unexplained illness in a study subject in Britain has cast doubt on prospects for an early rollout.

The vaccine, which Britain’s 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 furthest developed.

AstraZeneca said on Tuesday it had paused trials, including late-stage ones, to allow an independent committee to review safety data, and it was working to minimise any potential impact on the timeline.

“It is obviously a challenge to this particular vaccine trial,” Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News.

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The patient was suffering from neurological symptoms associated with a rare spinal inflammatory disorder called transverse myelitis, said Chief Executive Pascal Soriot, according to Stat News, citing investors who had listened to a call it said was organised by J.P. Morgan.

The diagnosis has yet to be confirmed, but the patient is recovering and will likely be discharged from the hospital soon, the CEO reportedly added.

The pause follows reports that the United States was aiming for fast-track authorization or approval before November’s presidential election.

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