Healthy adults are volunteering to contract COVID-19 to speed up vaccine trials.
Thousands of young, healthy adults have taken it upon themselves to volunteer to contract COVID-19 in order for scientists to be able to stay on track with developing a vaccine that will save the lives of others. The “1 Day Sooner” initiative is looking for healthy, low-risk adults to participate in a human challenge trial (HCT) for developing the solution. Researchers generally conduct medical trials to test the safety and efficiency of a potential vaccine by administering it to several thousand people and comparing the outcomes to a control group who does not receive treatment.
“In these traditional trials, after receiving the treatment, participants return to their homes and their normal daily lives so as to test the treatment under real world conditions,” reads the 1 Day Sooner website. “Since only a small proportion of these participants may encounter the disease, it may take a large number of participants and a good deal of time for these trials to reveal differences between the vaccine and placebo groups.”
An HCT trial might only require 100 participants to willingly contract the coronavirus so researchers can accelerate the testing of the vaccine’s efficacy. In the past, HCT trials have been conducted on treatments for other life-threatening conditions.
Co-founder Josh Morrison explained, “The drug Tamiflu, for example, was developed with challenge trials, as well as the malaria vaccine RTS,S that’s being deployed in Africa right now. You can find out much more quickly whether a vaccine might work, than a traditional trial which might have thousands or even tens of thousands of volunteers.”
To reduce risks to participates, the trial would only recruit volunteers between the ages of 20 to 45 who have no underlying health risks. These individuals would likely be those who are at high risk already of contracting COVID-19.
“Finally, study participants would be isolated in highly controlled environments under constant observation,” reads the campaign website. “If infection is detected, they would be provided with excellent medical treatment. Hopefully, pharmaceutical treatments will also be available by the time a study is conducted.”
“I know that there are risks, and if I were to do this, and it were to go poorly, then that would be terrible, my family would be really sad,” said Abie Rohrig, a 20-year-old college student who signed up as a volunteer. “But someone has to step up. It seems like this just needs to happen.”
“If you look at the risks of getting COVID-19 for the young, healthy group that would participate in challenge trials, they’re roughly on a par with childbirth or with kidney donation. So, again, significant risk and we’re not understating that, but these are risks that we commonly allow people to accept normally and given the tremendous possible value we think it’s worth accepting them in this case,” Morrison said.
The 1 Day Sooner campaign was named after statistical models estimating that accelerating a vaccine’s approval by one day could save as many as 7,120 lives. Adults who have signed up as volunteers are not currently bound to any legal obligation. More than 20,000 adults across 102 countries have expressed interest to date.