LONDON – Scientists at Imperial College will be intentionally infecting healthy volunteers with the coronavirus in early 2021 as part of a $40-million campaign to hasten development of an effective vaccine.
They hope this controversial strategy – called the “human challenge trial” – could cut the time involved in producing a Covid19 vaccine, in a determined bid to end the global pandemic.
At the moment, in all ongoing Phase 3 trials, scientists still have to wait for an undetermined period for vaccinated people to encounter the virus before any conclusions can be derived.
But during the human challenge trial, volunteers would be purposely exposed to the deadly virus in laboratory conditions.
This way, the time it takes to get infected is greatly reduced thereby hastening the research process.
Published reports say that scientists have been using the concept of human challenge trials for decades to test vaccines for typhoid, cholera, and other infectious diseases. In the case of malaria, volunteers were even asked to expose their arms in boxes full of mosquitoes to be bitten.
But, intentionally infecting volunteers with coronavirus is seen as highly risky as there is no known cure for the disease, which puts them in “uncharted ethical territory.”
Nevertheless, Time.com has reported that some 38,000 persons in the US have registered online to participate in the challenge studies, despite the fact that none are scheduled in the country just yet.