The race to develop a coronavirus vaccine careened into a speed bump Tuesday when the U.K.-based pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca announced it was pausing late-stage global trials of its leading vaccine candidate after one of the trial’s volunteers experienced a serious suspected adverse reaction. The company signed a deal to manufacture and distribute a vaccine developed at Oxford University and had hoped that the vaccine would be ready and available by the end of the year. The company announced it was voluntarily pausing its vaccine to investigate whether or not the illness in the volunteer was linked to the vaccine.

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A volunteer receives the COVID-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford with the British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. NELSON ALMEIDA/Getty Images

For the Trump administration, which has badly mishandled the U.S. response to the pandemic, the near singular focus now rests on producing an effective vaccine as fast as possible that could potentially let the country resume some semblance of normal daily life. President Donald Trump has played fast and loose with Covid cures of all sorts over the last six months, and, never being one to let reality get in the way of what serves him best, caused concern over the sanity and safety of the well-established trial process.

The Trump administration has been considering fast-tracking the AstraZeneca vaccine, bypassing normal regulatory standards, so that the president could have some good news to announce before Americans go to the polls on Nov. 3. “To speed up the process, the drugmaker has begun manufacturing the jab before the trials are complete or the vaccine is approved,” the Financial Times reports. “The partnership—which has received more than $1 billion in funding from the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority—has agreed to deliver more than 300 million doses to the U.S. government.”

In a statement, AstraZeneca described the decision to halt the trial as a “routine action” that “has to happen whenever there is a potentially unexplained illness in one of the trials, while it is investigated, ensuring we maintain the integrity of the trials.” “A person familiar with the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the participant who experienced the suspected adverse reaction had been enrolled in a Phase 2/3 trial based in the United Kingdom,” according to the New York Times. “The individual also said that a volunteer in the U.K. trial had received a diagnosis of transverse myelitis, an inflammatory syndrome that affects the spinal cord and is often sparked by viral infections. However, the timing of this diagnosis, and whether it was directly linked to AstraZeneca’s vaccine, is still unknown.”

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