'This is exactly how clinical trials should function': COVID-19 vaccine paused is step in right direction, experts say

Researchers hope transparency builds confidence, trust for when vaccine is approved
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Word that a COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial was paused may be in headlines but for scientists, it's expected news.

The setback in the race for a COVID-19 vaccine means a step in the right direction, according to experts.

Johnson and Johnson have put their trial on hold after a participant had an "unexplained illness," and Tuesday pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly also suspended its trial for an antibody treatment.

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While the hold on these trials may seem like a setback, some experts say it's a step in the right direction.

"This is exactly how clinical trials should function. This is the scientific process working as it should," said ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton.

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Johnson & Johnson is said to stop recruiting and offering doses to trial participants while scientists try to determine if the illness of a participant is related to the trial.

"It is absolutely not a surprise," Dr. Ashton said. "It's not unexpected and I think it should reassure people about how safety is first and foremost when developing this or any other vaccine."

Last month AstraZeneca also paused clinical trials after a participant had an unexplained illness.

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Dr. Melissa Simon at Northwestern Medicine is an OB/GYN and scientist who analyzes vaccine research

"The more transparent these trials are when they pause, the better," said Dr. Melissa Simon, an OB/GYN and scientist who analyzes vaccine research at Northwestern Medicine.

Simon hopes more information about this process will allow the public to feel confident to take a vaccine once it's approved.

"Right now, we've earned the distrust of many communities across the country right now and we have to work even harder to get that trust back, and especially with respect to COVID and a vaccine for COVID," she said.

Simon said she expects it to take months, even a year before the vaccine is readily available.

Until then, she hopes the vaccine researchers will continue to be open with their findings, both good and bad.

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