In a controversial and the world’s first move, the UK will vaccinate young healthy individuals with an under-development COVID-19 vaccine, and then purposefully infect them with the potentially-deadly virus to fast-track the vaccine development.
As per media reports, the UK government announced the trial called the challenge vaccine trial — without specifying which vaccine will be tested. The government argued it will enable the fast-track operation of a potential vaccine.
Young, healthy individuals will receive the live and diluted virus via a nasal spray, in a controlled environment which will enable scientists to observe the effects of the vaccine much earlier than traditional trails typically allow.
Despite the potential merits of fast-tracking vaccine development through the trial, many experts have raised ethical questions over the same.
After all, the novel coronavirus has already killed over 1.1 million people globally and has infected over 39 million people around the world.
Although older adults with co-morbid conditions are at most risk, young and healthy people succumbing to the virus has also been noted.
The chief scientist of hVIVO said much of the potential risk factors involving the trial have been eliminated.
Only healthy individuals aged 18- 30-years-old have been considered for the trail who will receive a tightly calibrated dose of the virus via the nose, Andrew Catchpole of hVIVO told ABC News.
“So the virus, which we would inoculate them with, has been manufactured to the very high standards, a medical grade version of the virus that undergoes very high regulatory scrutiny to make sure that that virus is safe and suitable for use — just like you would expect for any other licensed medicine,” Catchpole explained.
hVIVO will conduct the trial along with the Imperial College University, the Royal Free Hospital and the UK government.
Britain, which is currently battling the second wave of COVID-19 has been aggressive in handling the pandemic. Its current move with the challenge trail is being seen as a bold move to shout out loud its leadership in the medical field in a post-Brexit era.
Some of the world’s most-promising vaccine candidates are from the UK.
Stressing on the merits of the challenge studies, Catchpole said in the case of these trials the viral environment is totally in control of the researchers, enabling them to monitor the body’s reaction more closely and efficiently.
But in the case of regularly staged trials, volunteers are inoculated with the vaccine and it is only by purely random chance one will contact the virus and enable the researchers to study the case closely.
“Challenge studies we’re able to conduct safely and all year round, irrespective of how much virus is going on [around] the community,” he said.
After infecting the volunteers with the virus they’ll spend the rest of the time biosecure facility unless they’re deemed out of infection.
An Ethics professor at the University of Oxford, Prof Julian Savulescu told the BBC that “there is a moral imperative to develop to a safe and effective vaccine – and to do so as quickly as possible.
“Given the stakes, it is unethical not to do challenge studies.”
Interested? You can register yourself at the UK COVID Challenge here.