Thousands Willing to Get Infected for Speedier Vaccine Results
HealthMiguel Moreno

Over 16,000 people have signed up to be infected with COVID-19 in hopes of developing a vaccine sooner, according to the organization leading the effort, 1Day Sooner.

Under the trials, called human challenge studies, people are exposed to the CCP virus, which causes COVID-19, after being given an experimental vaccine.

But for obvious reasons, intentionally exposing people to a dangerous virus can be controversial.

“Individuals who get infected in a human challenge study may develop severe disease, may require hospitalization, may develop pneumonia, and the risk is not zero,” said Senior Scholar Dr. Amesh Adalja from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “And it could be substantial for a disease [of] which we don’t have very good treatments for.”

But he said he thinks the topic should be explored, adding that there should be a plan B in case things go wrong, like an effective antiviral drug.

NTD Photo
A syringe containing the first shot given in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP virus, rests on a table at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle on March 16, 2020. (Ted S. Warren/AP Photo)

So far, no drug has been approved by any government agency as being effective against the CCP virus.

The Food and Drug Administration allowed the use of hydroxychloroquine during the pandemic based on positive anecdotal evidence. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is currently testing remdesivir in clinical trials.

“So I do understand that there are major challenges, and it may be the challenges are insurmountable at this period of time to do human challenge studies,” said Adalja.

1Day Sooner states that only healthy and relatively young volunteers are eligible for the multi-phase testing.

In an email, the NIH stated that it “is not planing to support human challenge studies.” Besides presenting “major ethical issues,” the agency said a study like that would take longer to finish than their in-progress clinical vaccine trial.

NIH is in phase one of its clinical trial, and Dr. Anthony Fauci said on May 12 that results could come in by “late fall and early winter.”