A doctor who died while taking part in the University of Oxford's coronavirus vaccine trial has been described as an 'exemplary' medic.

João Pedro R. Feitosa, 28, was involved in the Brazilian trials of the vaccine trial under development by the university and drugs firm AstraZeneca.

According to local media reports, the volunteer had been given a placebo jab rather than the vaccine and died from Covid-19 related complications.

The doctor's exact cause of death is unknown as AstraZeneca said it would not comment on individual cases due to patient confidentiality.

A source told Reuters the trial would have been suspended if he had received the actual vaccine - and the trial is set to continue in Brazil.

The medic was an 'exemplary' doctor, his loved ones said

In a statement paying tribute to Dr Feitosa, his girlfriend and friends said: “João, I think that in this little text I could remember how good an exemplary doctor and student you were, but I think the memory that I will mention to everyone here will be different.

"I want to keep forever how good a boyfriend, brother and friend you were.

“The pain in the chest, the emptiness and longing since you left are growing in every moment and what gives us strength in that moment besides the affection of so many friends that you have made in life is to remember what you were like.

"The Feitosa of meaningless videos, board games, sleepless nights just talking, the friend who was always there.”

Oxford is in advanced stages of testing a Covid-19 immunisation being developed with AstraZeneca, with volunteers in countries including Brazil, the UK and the US.

The AstraZeneca trial will continue in Brazil
The doctor reportedly received a placebo

The university said it had investigated the case but found "no concerns about safety" around the vaccine.

Oxford said in a statement: "All significant medical incidents, whether participants are in the control group or the Covid-19 vaccine group, are independently reviewed.

"Following careful assessment of this case in Brazil, there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial and the independent review in addition to the Brazilian regulator have recommended that the trial should continue."

Brazil's health authority said it was informed of the death of a participant earlier this week.

AstraZeneca said it could not comment on individual cases due to patient confidentiality, but said all due processes had been followed and there were no issues with the trial continuing.

AstraZeneca refused to comment on the case due to patient confidentiality
The 28-year-old reportedly died from coronavirus-related complications

A spokesperson said: "All significant medical events are carefully assessed by trial investigators, an independent safety monitoring committee and the regulatory authorities.

"These assessments have not led to any concerns about continuation of the ongoing study."  

Experts in the UK said since it appeared the volunteer's death was not vaccine-related, there was no reason the trials should be stopped.

University of Reading virology professor Ian Jones said: "Without details it's impossible to know what has happened in this case but as the trial is continuing, I think we can assume the circumstances of the death were such that it was clearly not vaccine related.

"What we have to remember is that in any large trial the normal processes of morbidity and mortality are still operating and that sometimes an event will occur in a trial participant which would have occurred anyway, trial or not.

"The case will have been carefully examined and, as vaccine relatedness has presumably been ruled out, the trial should continue to bring the vaccine to a decision point as soon as possible."

Immunology professor Eleanor Riley said: "Every reputable clinical trial, such as this trial being undertaken by the Oxford/Astra Zeneca partnership, is overseen by an independent data and safety monitoring board.

"This board will have reviewed the case in detail before reviewing the data in detail before liaising with the Brazilian and international regulators before determining that the trial can continue."

Andrew Freedman, honorary consultant physician and disease expert at the Cardiff University School of Medicine, said: "Fortunately, deaths resulting from the administration of a trial drug or vaccine are very rare and would normally lead to the immediate discontinuation of the trial."