Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt believes there is genuine cause for hope as the stalled COVID-19 vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca Oxford resumes its testing program on human volunteers.
The trials were paused last week when a patient reported a side effect that required investigation to see if the problem was related to the vaccine.
UK medical authorities have now signed off on the resumption after an investigation.
The Australian federal government has a letter of intent for 34 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine to be distributed if trials succeed.
Mr Hunt said the suspension was an ordinary part of a safeguards process whenever there is an adverse event and people don’t know at the time of the event if it is related to the vaccine or not.
“For us, No.1 is safety. That trumps everything,” Mr Hunt told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program.
“There is genuine cause for hope and optimism for Australians.”
Good news for everyone the Oxford vaccine trials are back up and running. This pause shows we will always put safety first. We will back our scientists to deliver an effective vaccine as soon as safely possiblehttps://t.co/RUtTE3sPim
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) September 12, 2020
AstraZeneca said in a statement that trials had resumed in the UK following confirmation by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority that it was safe to do so.
“On 6 September, the standard review process triggered a voluntary pause to vaccination across all global trials to allow review of safety data by independent committees, and international regulators,” it said.
“The UK committee has concluded its investigations and recommended to the MHRA that trials in the UK are safe to resume.”
The much-anticipated coronavirus vaccine being developed in the UK will resume human trials after being deemed safe.
Globally some 18,000 people have received the vaccine so far.
Volunteers from some of the worst-affected countries – Britain, Brazil, South Africa and the US – are taking part in the trial.
Although Oxford would not disclose information about the patient’s illness due to participant confidentiality, an AstraZeneca spokesman said earlier this week that a woman had developed severe neurological symptoms that prompted the pause.
Specifically, the woman is said to have developed symptoms consistent with transverse myelitis, a rare inflammation of the spinal cord.
The university insisted it is “committed to the safety of our participants and the highest standards of conduct in our studies and will continue to monitor safety closely”.
Pauses in drug trials are commonplace and the temporary hold led to a sharp fall in AstraZeneca’s share price following the announcement on Tuesday.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca study had been previously stopped in July for several days after a participant developed neurological symptoms that turned out to be an undiagnosed case of multiple sclerosis that researchers said was unrelated to the vaccine.