Doctors, nurses and other frontline workers in one major London hospital trust were reportedly told to get ready to receive shots of the Oxford-AstraZeneca anti-COVID vaccine starting from 2 November onwards, the Sun exclusively revealed on Monday.
According to the newspaper, the other clinical trials at the facility have been put on pause so that all resources could be devoted to upcoming vaccination efforts, as “extra security measures” were also allegedly planned over fears of demonstrations that the launch of the COVID-19 vaccine could cause.
“As it is likely to be one of the first hospitals in the world to begin vaccinating frontline health workers, there are fears it could be targeted and requires extra support,” the report says, citing an anonymous Whitehall source who maintained that the hospital chiefs were in close contact with police in relation to security concerns.
UK Health Minister Matt Hancock, however, later discouraged this report by saying that “preparing for a rollout, and actually having the stuff to rollout are two different things.”
Hancock added that the anti-coronavirus vaccine research was progressing but it was not his “central expectation that we’ll be doing that this year”, noting that he did not expect a rollout earlier than in 2021.
Controversy Over Oxford-AstraZeneca Trials
In September, the United Kingdom had actually paused the third phase of trials of the AstraZeneca vaccine after one of the British volunteers reported a side effect. The UK trials had resumed four days later after the experiment was deemed safe to continue, and later in Brazil and India, where they were also temporally halted. However, the United States has hesitated so far ro re-engage in continuing the clinical testing, as it was also revealed that the case with the British participant was not exclusive and "unexplained neurological symptoms" were reportedly spotted in another volunteer as early as in July.
While health regulators in the United States are still continuing their own safety assessment of the vaccine, it was announced last week that clinical trials of the AstraZeneca jab could resume soon.
Meanwhile, it was revealed by the Brazilian health authority Anvisa on Wednesday that one of Brazilian volunteers taking part in COVID trials had died on 19 October, without specifying the circumstances around the person’s death, citing confidentiality protocols. It was suggested by reports that were not confirmed by Anvisa that the man in question was a 28-year-old doctor who died from COVID-19 complications.
However, neither the health agency nor AstraZeneca or Oxford revealed whether the participant was receiving the vaccine or was a part of a control group, where volunteers were rather vaccinated with anti-meningitis jab. Following the news, Oxford University, citing “the independent review, in addition to the Brazilian regulator”, recommended continuing the clinical trials as no safety concerns were found amid the person’s death.
It was later suggested by sources familiar with the matter that the trials would have been stopped if the man had received the actual vaccine and not placebo, however the trial conductors could not comment on this issue due to rules surrounding the experiment.