Johnson & Johnson shares slide as vaccine trial put on hold

American multinational medical and pharmaceutical firm Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) has seen its shares slip 1.50% on Tuesday afternoon after it announced that its coronavirus vaccine trial has been forced to halt due to the ‘unexplained illness’ of a participant.

The company has stated that the volunteer’s illness is currently being assessed by an independent regulator to determine if their symptoms are related to the vaccine. It is not yet known if the patient had received a genuine dose or a control placebo.

Until a review is carried out, Johnson & Johnson has confirmed that it has completely suspended the crucial Phase III of its clinical human trials as a precaution. Further details of the patient’s condition are protected under privacy agreements.

This is not the first coronavirus vaccine set-back so far. Just last month, the world-leading collaboration between Oxford University and AstraZeneca was forced to halt its own clinical trials after a participant developed neurological symptoms.

Regulators later deemed the trial safe to go ahead, but not without dealing a heavy blow to hopes that the development of an effective coronavirus vaccine will be a smooth and swift ride.

Johnson & Johnson released a statement on the news, remaining tight-lipped about the details of the incident while issuing a reminder that a patient becoming ill is not necessarily unusual:

“Adverse events – illnesses, accidents, etc. – even those that are serious, are an expected part of any clinical study, especially large studies.

“We must respect this participant’s privacy. We’re also learning more about this participant’s illness, and it’s important to have all the facts before we share additional information”.

Much like AstraZeneca’s proposed jab, Johnson & Johnson’s makes use of a modified common cold virus to train the immune system to fight coronavirus infection.

There are currently nearly 180 vaccines in development around the world, but it is widely-thought that a readily-available jab for the general public will not be accessible until Spring 2021 at the very earliest.

Johnson & Johnson’s share price slipped 1.50% to USD 149.58 at GMT 14:59 13/10/20, down slightly from yesterday’s peak of USD 153.14.

However, investors should not necessarily shy away, as the firm has gained leaps and bounds since its annual nadir of just USD 111.14 on 23/03/20, and has remained relatively consistent within the boundaries of USD 140.00-157.00 ever since.