A medical worker prepares a measles vaccine on September 10, 2019 in Auckland, New Zealand.
Fiona Goodall/Getty Images
More than 16,000 people showed support for being deliberately infected with the coronavirus to help bring about a vaccine faster.
The method of deliberately infecting people with a virus to test the effectiveness of a vaccine is called a human-challenge, and the World Health Organization said while it could be effective it should not be used with pathogens that have high fatality rates and no cures or treatments.
There’s no approval from the Food and Drug Administration to allow for human-challenge trials, as of yet.
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More than 16,000 people have shown interest in volunteering to speed up vaccine development for the new coronavirus by being intentionally infected with the virus, CNN reported.
The method is called a human-challenge study, and it could expedite a vaccine study because it would give participants the virus after giving them the vaccine or placebo and monitoring the effectiveness of the vaccine, according to CNN.
That’s opposed to waiting months to see how many people out of thousands given a vaccine trial catch the virus while living their normal lives.
According to the World Health Organization, these types of human-challenge studies are not required for every vaccine’s development, but vaccine developers may ask to use them if they feel animal-models pose limitations.
“Animal models are often quite imprecise in reflecting human disease, and many infectious organisms against which a developer might wish to develop a vaccine are species-specific for humans,” WHO wrote in a report on human-challenge models.
Additionally WHO warns that the trials can not be used for viruses — especially ones with high mortality rates — with no treatments.
“For example, if an organism causes a disease with a high case fatality rate (or there is a long and uncertain latency period) and there are no existing therapies to prevent or ameliorate disease and preclude death, then it would not be appropriate to consider human challenge trials with such an organism,” WHO wrote.
Scientists are seen working on a potential vaccine for COVID-19 in Keele, Britain.
The idea of using a human-challenge trial for COVID-19 was sparked by a March 31 article in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, CNN reported.
The article argued that while it would be risky “every week that vaccine rollout is delayed will be accompanied by many thousands of deaths globally.”
“It’s an idea that is controversial when people hear about it for the first time,” Co-author Nir Eyal, a bio-ethicist, told CNN. “However, we show that if you select people in the right way and conduct the trial in the right way, it’s surprisingly low risk and certainly within the bounds of what we already approve.”
Now, more than 16,000 signatories from 102 countries signed on to a statement that read “I am interested in being exposed to the coronavirus to speed up vaccine development,” on a new website called 1 Day Sooner. The website, it is worth noting, is not a contract.
According to CNN, most of the signatories were young adults. Abie Rohrig, a 20-year-old college student from New York, told CNN he was interested in participating “for the benefit of humanity.”
One of the signatories on the site also said they signed up to help bring about a vaccine quickly.
“I’m a young, healthy student and want to help develop a safe vaccine quickly, and am happy to volunteer to be part of this process. The importance of this outweighs personal risks in my opinion,” one signatory was quoted on the site.
But while the method could bring about a vaccine quickly, it also offers high risk. While the virus has mostly been severe in the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, it has also killed many young adults or caused complications. There’s no way to tell how it’s going to affect each individual and symptoms can take a turn for the worst at any point after infection. Treatment options are very limited.
If the study were to move forward it would need to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. There are also still a number of other promising vaccine trials and medications for COVID-19 currently being developed or trialed.
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