While most agree that it’s better to stay away from COVID-19, about 16,000 people have agreed to be infected with the virus to accelerate clinical trials. However, there is no sign that trials will start any time soon.
Run by an organisation called 1 Day Sooner, these volunteers are part of the “COVID-19 Human Challenge Trials”. They describe this as follows:
“Human challenge trials deliberately expose participants to infection, in order to study diseases and test vaccines or treatments. They have been used for influenza, malaria, typhoid, dengue fever, and cholera. Researchers are exploring whether human challenge trials could speed up the development of a vaccine for COVID-19, saving thousands or even millions of lives”.
Health24 reported in late April 2020 that 2,300 people had volunteered. Now, only weeks later on May 13, the number of volunteers sits at 16,213. People who have signed up come from over 100 different countries.
On the 1 Day Sooner website, they have published some of the reasons why people have signed up. Volunteers justifications for joining the range from “I just want this to be solved already” to “Given the possible death toll, I think unprecedented approaches to vaccine testing are warranted. A marginal improvement in how quickly a vaccine is released could be extremely valuable” and “I am older – 52, my kids are grown and I feel like if I can help save people who are not in the same position then I should do it.”
The reason for the rush to create a vaccine is that until one is made we will have to continue practising social distancing and self isolation. We cannot return to normal without it.
Of course, a vaccine doesn’t get developed overnight, it takes a long time. Co-founder Josh Morrison said that he wants to use this campaign to show that people want to help speed up the process. He also said that the aim is to find as many willing participants as possible so that they will be qualified by the time trails are ready to go ahead.
There has been quite a bit of debate about the ethics and risks involved, especially since this is quite a non-traditional way to go about finding a solution.
Strong overlap with yesterday’s WHO paper. Most important factor? Ensuring HCT has sufficient social value to justify risks to participants
— 1DaySooner (@1daysooner) May 8, 2020