'We're letting the science dictate here': What Johnson & Johnson's CFO said on pausing COVID-19 vaccine trials

On Oct. 12, Johnson & Johnson temporarily paused its COVID-19 vaccine candidate clinical trials after a participant developed an unexplained illness.

The company is working with the independent Data Safety Monitoring Board to review and evaluate its phase 3 ENSEMBLE trial.

"We're letting safety protocol follow proper procedure here," CFO Joseph Wolk told CNBC.

Johnson & Johnson has not revealed whether the individual with the unexplained illness received the vaccine or a placebo, but said an adverse event in a trial of 60,000 individuals is "not uncommon."

"It probably should be expected that you would see a pause for an unexpected adverse event and we're letting the science dictate here," said Mr. Wolk. "What it should do also is reassure the public that every scientific, medical and ethical standard is being applied here, not only at Johnson & Johnson but across the industry as we search for a vaccine to combat COVID-19."

Mr. Wolk said the company does not know whether the unexplained illness is similar to the adverse event experienced by an individual enrolled in AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine trial in September. AstraZeneca put a hold on their trial, and while it has resumed in some countries, it remains on hold in the U.S.

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