AstraZeneca CEO suggests vaccine trial's suspension is its 2nd, elicits transparency concerns

During AstraZeneca's Sept. 9 conference call with investors explaining the recent suspension of its COVID-19 vaccine trial, CEO Pascal Soriot disclosed that the trial had also been halted in July, according to STAT.

On Sept. 9, AstraZeneca publicly announced it was putting a hold on its global COVID-19 vaccine trials because a participant experienced serious neurological symptoms. She is doing better and will probably be discharged from the hospital soon, Mr. Soriot told investors during the call.

On the call, Mr. Soriot also revealed that the drugmaker had halted its COVID-19 vaccine trial in July after a participant experienced neurological symptoms. Mr. Soriot told investors that the participant's symptoms were attributed to multiple sclerosis, not a reaction to the vaccine.

An AstraZeneca spokesperson did not respond to STAT's request for comment. 

AstraZeneca's public statements regarding its COVID-19 vaccine development have not featured much detail or specifics, and July's trial suspension has never been disclosed to the public. Some people following the vaccine race have criticized the drugmaker for a lack of transparency.

"The failure to be more forthcoming right away only raises further questions about vaccine safety — at least for those who are unfamiliar with vaccine development," STAT's Ed Silverman wrote in an open letter to Mr. Soriot, which criticized the CEO's decision to sit on his knowledge of the trial's adverse event before disclosing the information to the public. "Vague reassurances about a 'routine action' are meaningless when the whole world is scrutinizing your every move."

"We're in a precarious state of public trust and withholding information about a bad thing — or what might be a bad thing — in a trial further erodes that trust," medical ethicist Holly Fernandez Lynch told STAT.


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