The Brazilian National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) announced Oct. 21 that it is investigating data received on the death of a volunteer in a clinical trial of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.
In an email sent to Medscape Medical News, the agency states that it was formally informed of the death on October 19. It has already received data regarding the investigation of the case, which is now being conducted by the Brazilian International Security Assessment Committee.
The identity of the volunteer and cause of death have not yet been confirmed by any official source linked to the study. In the email, Anvisa reiterated that “according to national and international regulations on good clinical practices, data on clinical research volunteers must be kept confidential, in accordance with the principles of confidentiality, human dignity, and protection of participants.”
A report in the Brazilian newspaper O Globo, however, states that the patient who died is a 28-year-old doctor, recently graduated, who worked on the front line of combating COVID-19 in three hospitals in Rio de Janeiro.. Due to the study design, it is impossible to know whether the volunteer received the vaccine or placebo.
It is imperative to wait for the results of the investigations, said Sergio Cimerman, MD, the scientific coordinator of the Brazilian Society of Infectious Diseases (SBI), because death is possible during any vaccine trial, even more so in cases in which the final goal is to immunize the population in record time.
“It is precisely the phase 3 study that assesses efficacy and safety so that the vaccine can be used for the entire population. We cannot let ourselves lose hope, and we must move forward, as safely as possible, in search of an ideal vaccine,” said Cimerman, who works at the Instituto de Infectologia Emílio Ribas and is also an advisor to the Portuguese edition of Medscape.
This article was translated and adapted from the Portuguese edition of Medscape.