Quixplained: The stages of Covid-19 vaccine development, and the story so far

The AstraZeneca-Oxford global vaccine trial was paused last week, and has resumed only in the UK. What does this mean for the front-runner candidate? How are vaccines developed?

AstraZeneca, which is creating a vaccine for the novel coronavirus in partnership with Oxford University, paused its global vaccine trial on September 6 after a participant in the UK showed signs of severe illness. Several news reports described it as a neurological disorder affecting the spinal cord.

Days later, the company resumed human testing of the vaccine candidate in the UK. It said it would work with health authorities “across the world” and “be guided” as to when other clinical trials can resume.

There remains uncertainty in India, where the vaccine candidate is undergoing phase-2 and phase-3 trials simultaneously.

Serum Institute of India (SII), which is conducting the trials, had to pause testing after a notice by India’s top drug regulator about the global issue. So far, around 100 participants have been administered the vaccine in India.

The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine was among the front-runners of the global candidates.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the pause was not a setback, but a “wake up call” as vaccine development was not always a “fast and straight road”.

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