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Home » U.K. Government Invests $43 Million In Vaccine Trials That Deliberately Infect Volunteers With Covid-19

U.K. Government Invests $43 Million In Vaccine Trials That Deliberately Infect Volunteers With Covid-19


The U.K. government announced Tuesday that it will invest £33.6 million ($43.6 million) to fund the first stage of Covid-19 human challenge trials —  in which inoculated volunteers could be deliberately infected with the disease — to establish the efficacy of a vaccine.

Key Facts

Scientists will first need to manufacture a virus strain and work out the smallest dose that will infect volunteers who will all be healthy adults between ages 18 and 30.

Upon receiving regulatory and ethical approvals, the challenge trials will take place between January and March next year.

The trials will be conducted by hVIVO, a unit of pharmaceutical services group Open Orphan.

Crucial Quote

1DaySooner, a non-profit that advocates for Covid-19 challenge trial volunteers praised the decision stating: “We are glad that the UK is embracing the altruism of the thousands of our British volunteers who want these studies,” adding “Every day without universal vaccination costs countless lives, so these studies need to begin as soon as a challenge strain is ready.” 

Big Number

38,659: That’s the total number of volunteers who have signed up to participate in human challenge trials across 166 countries, according to 1DaySooner.

Key Background

Normal vaccine studies rely on volunteers getting exposed to the virus in the community, with the expectation that regular testing will find a noticeable difference in the number of infections between the vaccinated and placebo groups. A challenge trial accelerates this process as all volunteers get the vaccine, and all of them get infected with the virus. Human challenge studies have been successfully used in the past to establish the efficacy of vaccines. In the late 18th century, British physician Edward Jenner used the method to develop the first-ever vaccine, meant for smallpox. The method has since been used to develop vaccines for typhoid, cholera and malaria. The U.S National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is working to create a strain of coronavirus that could be used in human challenge trials, however, Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN in August that this approach would be “Plan D.” 

Chief Critic

Meagan Deming, a vaccine scientist and virologist at the University of Maryland Medical Centre, told the science journal Nature that since the human challenge trials are likely to involve only young, healthy people, they might not reveal much about how effective the vaccines will be for those most at risk of severe disease, such as older people and those with conditions such as diabetes. Even Dr. Fauci, has been critical of challenge trials in the past, saying: “You generally do [human challenge trials] if you don’t have enough infections in the community at any given time to get a signal from the vaccine,” Fauci said. “Unfortunately for us, we don’t have that problem — we have a lot of infections.”

Further Reading

Dozens to be deliberately infected with coronavirus in UK ‘human challenge’ trials (Nature)

U.K. Government Reportedly In Advanced Talks To Initiate Human Challenge Vaccine Trials That Would See Volunteers Infected With Covid-19 (Forbes)

Full coverage and live updates on the Coronavirus

Source: Forbes – Business

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