Scientists are demanding AstraZeneca to be transparent about the trial of its potential coronavirus vaccine. The pharmaceutical company announced earlier this month that it would halt the testing of its COVID-19 vaccine due to safety concerns.

The trial was put on hold weeks ago after a participant developed a serious inflammatory condition after receiving the vaccine. But while the testing of AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been on hold in the U.S. for almost two weeks, trials of the vaccine in other countries, including the U.K., have already resumed.

Scientists are now pleading AstraZeneca to shed light on the status of the trial, saying the unexplained resumption of the tests in other countries could damage public trust. Ashish Jha of Brown University’s School of Public Health said the public might lose confidence in the whole process if AstraZeneca pushes through with the trials without addressing the safety issues identified in the initial tests.

“Normally, companies wouldn’t give out information in the middle of a trial, but this is an exceptional case and we need to have radical transparency,” he said.

The University of Oxford issued a document telling the volunteers in the resumed trials that the unexplained neurological symptoms developed by the participants in the initial trials were unlikely to be associated with AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine. The university also claimed there was insufficient evidence to prove that the health issues were associated with the vaccine, so independent reviewers had recommended the continuation of the trials. The University of Oxford is the one that developed the AstraZeneca vaccine.

In the U.S., the coronavirus vaccine development program has become highly political as critics of Donald Trump claim that the president is rushing out the approval of a vaccine before November to boost his chances of winning the presidential elections. Polls also show that public trust in an eventual coronavirus vaccine has dwindled, with only half of Americans saying they want to get the vaccine when it becomes available this year.

According to Gigi Grinovall of John Hopkins Center for Health Security, now is high time for companies and regulators to be more open about the status of their trials. “It is important for everyone to be transparent and honest,” she said. “Eventually, it’s the public who will either take this vaccine or not, so it is to their advantage to be transparent as possible.”

Vaccine Discussion about the Cuba's life-saving lung cancer vaccine called CimaVax-EGF is growing rapidly. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard