14,000 People Just Volunteered To Be Infected With Coronavirus

Kristoffer Trolle

They want to take part in a “human challenge trial,” an ethically controversial vaccine test that infects people with a virus doesn’t yet have a cure.

May 10, 2020

CBS News – Imagine being told to inhale a nasal spray full of the coronavirus. More than 14,000 people in the U.S. and elsewhere are putting their names forward to do so.

They are volunteering for what’s called a “human challenge trial,” an ethically controversial way to test vaccines that would deliberately infect people with a virus that has killed over 270,000 people worldwide and has no cure.

“It’s not every day we give a healthy individual an exposure to a pathogen — the very same thing doctors are trying to protect people from,” said Dr. Nir Eyal, director of the Center for Population-Level Bioethics at Rutgers University. “But it becomes increasingly clear [that] the only sustainable exit from the current health and societal crisis is a vaccine, and there are ways to conduct such a trial that are perfectly ethical.”

A vaccine is society’s ticket back to normalcy — to crowded sports stadiums, birthday parties and visits to elderly loved ones, as well as back to some of the over 33 million lost jobs.

But a solution is likely still a year to 18 months away at best, spurring warnings of social distancing until 2022 and a worse second wave this winter.

The problem is that vaccines take time to develop and test — often upward of a decade. The final phase of vaccine testing usually requires tracking up to tens of thousands of people to see who becomes infected in their daily lives, sometimes over several years.

But leading epidemiologists, philosophers and vaccinologists have recently advocated human challenge studies to accelerate the process. Eyal and his co-authors predict that with careful design and informed consent, it could bring a vaccine months earlier and save thousands of lives … Read more.