KEY POINTS

  • A volunteer who was part of AstraZeneca’s and Oxford University’s COVID-19 vaccine trial died in Brazil
  • Following the death the trials will still continue
  • Bloomberg reported that the volunteer had been part of the placebo group and did not receive the potential vaccine

Brazilian health regulator Anvisa announced Wednesday that a participant in AstraZeneca's and Oxford University's COVID-19 vaccine trial has died, according to Reuters. However, Anvisa added that the trial would continue.

Oxford University confirmed the trial will move forward in Brazil, saying there has been “no concerns about safety of the clinical trial.” 

Bloomberg reported that the volunteer was part of the placebo group and did not receive the potential vaccine. However, it’s the first known death among COVID-19 vaccine trial volunteers. 

"We cannot comment on individual cases in an ongoing trial of the Oxford vaccine as we adhere strictly to medical confidentiality and clinical trial regulations, but we can confirm that all required review processes have been followed," read a statement from AstraZeneca to NBC News. "All significant medical events are carefully assessed by trial investigators, an independent safety monitoring committee and the regulatory authorities. These assessments have not led to any concerns about continuation of the ongoing study."

Following the news of the death, shares of AstraZeneca fell 1.8%.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine is one of four in the U.S. that has reached stage three of testing.

AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant, previously paused its vaccine trial in September after two participants in the U.K. developed an unexplained illness. Oxford University argued that the illnesses were unlikely to be associated with the vaccine. 

AstraZeneca has since restarted trials in the U.K., Brazil, and South Africa but remains on hold in the U.S. However, AstraZeneca's vaccine trial is expected to resume early this week in the U.S., Reuters reported.

Most notably Johnson & Johnson temporarily paused its late-stage vaccine trials last week. The company halted the phase three trial due to an unexplained illness in one of its participants.

According to Stat News, the 60,000-patient clinical trial met the criteria for a “pausing rule.” This means the online system they use to enroll patients in the study has been closed. An independent committee responsible for watching over the safety of patients in the trial will be convened.

Johnson & Johnson confirmed the document obtained by Stat News and indicated the study was on pause.

Health officials have estimated a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine could be made available to high-risk groups before the year is out. However, a vaccine isn’t likely to be broadly available to all Americans until several months into 2021.