A volunteer test subject died on Wednesday while participating in AstraZeneca's trials for a COVID-19 vaccine. The subject, a 28-year old man from Rio de Janeiro, died after not receiving the vaccine—instead having received a placebo as a part of a control group.
Those are the facts. But the Washington Post's headline and tweeted simply reported that a participant in the vaccine study died, inciting fear over the vaccine.
The headline was later changed to "Volunteer in Oxford coronavirus vaccine trial dies, reportedly did not receive experimental vaccine."
Because of "medical confidentiality and clinical trial regulations," the specific reasons as to why the death occurred are unknown. CNN Brazil reports that it was allegedly brought about by "COVID-19 complications."
This is the first death to be associated with a COVID-19 vaccine test, according to Bloomberg.
AstraZeneca, a biopharmaceutical company based in Maryland, is one of the many world-class medicine and pharmaceutical research companies working on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. The testing, being conducted in association with Oxford University, is one of four to have reached phase III testing—the final level of testing—in the United States. The test itself is taking place in Brazil.
Joanna Bagniewska, a spokesperson for the Oxford vaccine group, told Business insider that despite the loss, testing is set to continue.
"Following careful assessment of this case in Brazil, there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial and the independent review, in addition to the Brazilian regulator, have recommended that the trial should continue," Bagniewska said.
The death will not be overlooked, and the testing facilities will do an independent look into the cause of death. This, Bagniewska explained, is part of standard procedure in testing environments.
"All significant medical incidents, whether participants are in the control group or the COVID-19 vaccine group, are independently reviewed," she said.
The only other incident associated with AstraZeneca's trails happened over a month ago in the United Kingdom when a patient developed an unexplained inflammation in the spinal cord.
The condition, known as transverse myelitis, is the reason why tests are happening in Brazil and not in the US or in the UK. The United States Food and Drug Administration has temporarily put US testing on hold, but sources say US testing could restart as early as this coming week.
As testing in Brazil continues, reporting from Reuters details that 8,000 of a 10,000 volunteer group have already received a first round of human trials of the vaccine. Some have already begun on a second round of testing.
Despite reassurance that the death was in no way representative of the vaccine itself, AstraZeneca's stocks have fallen 1.8 percent as of market close on Wednesday.