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Anthony Fauci said on Wednesday that it's "not uncommon at all" for a vaccine maker to pause its trials to review safety concerns, following news that AstraZeneca had done so on its phase 3 coronavirus vaccine trials due to a participant having a severe adverse reaction.

Driving the news: AstraZeneca, one of the frontrunners in the global race for a COVID-19 vaccine, said on Tuesday that the patient is expected to recover but did not make clear what the reaction was.

  • "In large trials illnesses will happen by chance but must be independently reviewed to check this carefully. We are working to expedite the review of the single event to minimize any potential impact on the trial timeline," the company said in a statement.

What they're saying: "I think it's important to point out that that's the reason why you have various phases of trials, to determine if in fact these candidates are safe, Fauci said on CBS News. "It's really one of the safety valves that you have on clinical trials such as this."

  • "It's not uncommon at all," Fauci added. "We see this generally, for the most part, but you don't know until you investigate it — it's an adverse event that's related to something else that just happened to have occured during the period of time that the clinical trial was on."
  • "But you can't presume that. You always make the presumption that it's due directly to the actual vaccine ... This is an example of the kind of thing that you do to make sure we're dealing with a product that's safe."

The big picture: Multiple COVID-19 vaccines have moved on to phase 3 trials, but some worry the process has been rushed and could be susceptible to political pressure.

  • Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn has said he would be willing to fast-track the vaccine via an emergency use authorization before phase 3 trials conclude, but insisted he would not do so for political reasons.

Go deeper

Updated Dec 18, 2020 - Health

States say federal government cutting COVID-19 vaccine allocations

A sign announcing the beginning of immunizations against COVID-19 at the Pittsburgh VA Medical Center on in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Officials in several states have said the federal government told them to expect fewer doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine next week than originally anticipated.

The big picture: Some 2.9 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were shipped this week as the U.S. started it's largest vaccination campaign in the nation's history. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Wednesday that 2 million more doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 5.9 million doses of the Moderna vaccine could be allocated next week, per CNBC.

Updated 15 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Mix-and-matching gains momentum — Boosters overtake first doses in U.S. — Pfizer to vaccinate Brazilian cityPanel endorses J&J booster.
  2. Health: Unvaccinated 11x more likely to die from COVID — 5x more police officers died from COVID than guns — New cases down
  3. Politics: Over 30 states limited public health powers — Pope Francis calls on companies to release COVID vaccine patents — Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders.
  4. Education: Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states — LA extends deadline for school employee vaccinations — Parent sues Wisconsin school district after child tests positive.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Dec 17, 2020 - Health

CDC: Drug overdose deaths accelerated during pandemic

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

An estimated 81,000 people died from a drug overdose between June 2019 and May 2020, the highest number ever recorded in a 12-month period, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released on Thursday.

Why it matters: The provisional data suggests the pandemic accelerated overdose deaths.