To end the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers propose infecting healthy volunteers. These Volunteers will be given a potential COVID-19 vaccine for the new coronavirus. Then they will be infected with the virus on purpose.
This will help speed up the research for a COVID-19 vaccine. Usually, vaccines or drugs are tested in three phases.
involves safety testing, where people receive a dose to see how they react. This phase involves a few dozen healthy volunteers.
involves hundreds of people and usually in an area affected by the disease. This phase looks at how effective the vaccine is.
also involves testing in the field where thousands of people are given either a vaccine or a placebo. These people are then monitored as they go about their lives.
Scientists then wait until enough people become naturally infected with the virus to see if the vaccine has protected those who were vaccinated. This takes a more extended period before a COVID-19 vaccine is finally approved.
The current lockdown will slow down this process further. If the virus’s spread is halted, then we will have to wait longer to make sure that enough people have been exposed.
An alternative approach could be to conduct human challenge studies where about 100 healthy volunteers are first vaccinated. Volunteers will be intentionally exposed to the novel coronavirus to test the ability of the COVID-19 vaccine to protect individuals from getting infected.
This will sharply cut the time taken to complete the trial and to study the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine. All the volunteers will be tested for their health first. The participants will remain isolated during the course of the study and will be carefully followed to monitor how they respond.
The volunteers should be young, preferably between the age of 20 to 45. They also should not be at serious risk from infection. This is not the first time that researchers are proposing human challenge studies.
Such studies have been conducted in the past for less severe diseases. Such as influenza, dengue, typhoid, cholera, and malaria. The first COVID-19 vaccine human trials have already begun.
Once the vaccine is approved, the next step is to scale the production to millions.