MONDAY, Sept. 14, 2020 (Healthday News) — Oxford University has announced that final-stage testing of a coronavirus vaccine it is developing with drug maker AstraZeneca will restart following a pause last week after a serious side effect showed up in a volunteer.
“The independent review process has concluded and following the recommendations of both the independent safety review committee and the U.K. regulator… the trials will recommence in the U.K.,” the university said in a statement released on Saturday. No further details were given on the results of the review.
Media reports have said the person who had the suspected adverse reaction had been volunteering in a trial based in the United Kingdom. The volunteer was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, an inflammatory syndrome that affects the spinal cord and is often sparked by viral infections.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is considered a frontrunner among the dozens of coronavirus vaccines in various stages of testing around the world, the Associated Press reported.
The university said in large trials “it is expected that some participants will become unwell and every case must be carefully evaluated to ensure careful assessment of safety.” Globally, some 18,000 people have received its vaccine so far, the AP reported.
Two other vaccines are in final testing in the United States, one made by Moderna Inc. and the other by Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech.
On Sunday, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the company should soon know whether its vaccine works, CBS News reported.
In an interview with “Face the Nation,” Bourla said the Pfizer vaccine trials indicate “we have a good chance that we will know if the product works by the end of October.”
The pharmaceutical giant now plans to expand trial enrollment from 30,000 to 44,000, to test the vaccine in more vulnerable populations, CBS News reported.
“Right now, the study recruits from 18 to 85. Now we will go to 16 years old,” Bourla said. “Also, we will go to people with special conditions, chronic conditions like HIV patients, but also we will try to use it to increase the diversity of the [study] population.”
Colleges scramble to contain COVID spread
Just weeks into the fall semester, universities and colleges in all 50 states are now struggling to contain the spread of coronavirus on their campuses.
More than 40,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported among students, staff and faculty nationwide, CNN reported. That number is likely higher due to a lag from schools that update their data every few days.
Many outbreaks have cropped up after gatherings at fraternities and sororities: One cluster of COVID-19 cases was traced back to a fraternity party held at the University of New Hampshire. More than 100 people attended the Aug. 29 party and few wore masks, CNN reported.
At Indiana University Bloomington, 30 sorority and fraternity houses have been ordered to quarantine following what campus officials have described as an “alarming increase” in COVID-19 cases within the houses, CNN reported.
Meanwhile, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has told all undergraduate students they must restrict their movements for the next two weeks, to try to reverse a rise in COVID-19 cases, CNN reported. The university also directed nine campus fraternities and sororities with off-campus live-in houses to quarantine for at least 14 days.
“We’ve reached the point where we need to quickly flatten the curve of infection, or we will lose the opportunity to have campus open to students this semester, which we know many students truly want,” Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in a statement.
Some of the highest number of cases are at Miami University, University of South Carolina, Ohio State University and East Carolina University, all of which have over 1,000 confirmed cases, CNN reported. The University of Missouri has 862 confirmed cases, while Missouri State University has 791, the CNN tally shows.
Even what is left of the college football season is on shaky ground: A number of teams have postponed their openers this weekend because of the pandemic, the Washington Post reported. Some of these games may not be made up, or won’t be made up until December at the earliest. And other postponements cannot be ruled out as colleges continue to deal with spikes in coronavirus cases.
Cases keep mounting
By Monday, the U.S. coronavirus case count passed 6.5 million as the death toll neared 194,000, according to a New York Times tally.
According to the same tally, the top five states in coronavirus cases as of Monday were: California with nearly 690,000; Texas with more than 677,800; Florida with nearly 664,000; New York with more than 449,000; and Georgia with over 277,700.
Curbing the spread of the coronavirus in the rest of the world remains challenging.
India has overtaken Brazil to become the country with the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world, the Times tally shows. The country’s case count is now over 4.8 million; only the United States has recorded more. More than 79,700 people in India have died of COVID-19, making it the worst-affected nation in Asia.
Meanwhile, Brazil posted over 4.3 million cases and over 131,600 deaths as of Monday, the Times tally showed.
Unlike the United States and Brazil, where the number of new cases have eased in recent weeks, India has been reporting the highest daily increases in cases in the world since early August, the Post reported.
After instituting the world’s largest lockdown last spring, Jayaprakash Muliyil, a leading Indian epidemiologist, predicted that the country’s daily reported cases will continue to rise in coming weeks. He told the Post that the daily cases could double over the next month before retreating.
Cases are also spiking in Russia: The country’s coronavirus case count has passed 1 million, the Times reported. As of Monday, the death toll in Russia was 18,573.
Worldwide, the number of reported infections passed 29 million on Monday, with over 924,800 deaths, according to the Hopkins tally.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.