UK COVID-19 vaccine ‘challenge trials’ could intentionally infect participants with virus

Healthy participants in the UK may be purposefully infected with the novel coronavirus in an effort to test the efficacy of possible COVID-19 vaccines.

The human ‘challenge trial’ programme would be the first of its kind to be carried out in the world, with volunteers set to be exposed to the virus and given a potential vaccine at the same time, and then closely monitored in quarantine for up to a month.

This would allow researchers to closely observe participants and gather samples while tracking the progress of the virus in real time, which would also allow for long-term follow-up.

Also, as infection is guaranteed in this type of trial, investigators would also be able to determine a vaccine’s efficacy at a faster rate than a standard phase 3 trial.

In traditional phase 3 vaccine testing, participants return to their normal day-to-day life after receiving a candidate vaccine. This usually means that only a small proportion of participants will encounter the virus, and  it can take more volunteers and a longer period of time to reveal differences between the vaccine treatment and placebo groups.

According to the Financial Times, the government-funded studies could begin by January in London, with an announcement unveiling the trials set for next week.

It is hoped that the ‘challenge trials’ will be able to quickly determine how well late-stage COVID-19 vaccines work, as some of these candidates are set to complete phase 3 testing before the end of the year.

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So far, 2,000 volunteers in the UK have signed up to the 1DaySooner movement, an organisation founded in April which has been petitioning for COVID-19 ‘challenge trial’ volunteers.

In the past, this type of trial has been used to investigate a range of diseases, including influenza, malaria, typhoid, dengue fever and cholera.

The Financial Times also reported that 1DaySooner is planning to launch a campaign this week petitioning for public funding for a biocontainment facility, built with a capacity to quarantine 100 to 200 participants.


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