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Volunteer in Oxford coronavirus vaccine trial dies, reportedly took placebo

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Paul Ellis AFP/Getty Images

The offices of the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca in Macclesfield, England.

RIO DE JANEIRO — A Brazilian who volunteered to receive a leading experimental coronavirus vaccine has died, officials here said Wednesday.

Brazil’s National Health Surveillance Agency, which is overseeing multiple vaccine trials here, said the patient volunteered to receive the vaccine candidate developed by Oxford University and produced by AstraZeneca.

The Brazilian newspaper O Globo, citing unnamed sources, reported that the volunteer received a placebo, not the vaccine, and died of covid-19. The news service G1 identified the volunteer as a 28-year-old physician who treated coronavirus patients in Rio de Janeiro.

The National Health Surveillance Agency said it was informed of the volunteer’s death on Monday. The agency said AstraZeneca’s international safety committee had recommended the trial continue.

A spokesman for AstraZeneca said he could not comment on individual cases in an ongoing trial, citing confidentiality requirements and clinical trial rules. But he said there were no concerns that would lead the study to pause.

“We can confirm that all required review processes have been followed,” spokesman Brendan McEvoy said. “All significant medical events are carefully assessed by trial investigators, an independent safety monitoring committee and the regulatory authorities. These assessments have not led to any concerns about continuation of the ongoing study.”

Oxford said the volunteer’s death was reviewed by an independent committee.

“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,” the university said in a statement.

The death has cast more uncertainty over the trial, which was suspended last month after a patient developed an unexplained illness. AstraZeneca has since resumed the tests in Brazil, India, South Africa, Japan and Britain. It remains on hold in the United States.

In the global race for a vaccine, Brazil, which has been battered by the disease but has a long-standing openness to vaccines, has become one of the most crucial testing grounds. Four vaccine trials are currently being conducted — as many as anywhere in the world.

Brazilians volunteer for vaccine trials to counter growing skepticism

Brazil, ravaged by the coronavirus, becomes key testing ground for vaccine

Coronavirus vaccine trial resumes in U.K. after week-long pause

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, World reports

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