The UK Government has shown the green light for a COVID-19 vaccine trial that involves infecting volunteers with the Coronavirus. After initial reports about the trial emerged in September this year, it finally got the government’s approval on October 20, 2020.
The “human challenge trial” is a collective effort by various experts, including researchers at Imperial College London. It will begin in January 2021, pending a final go-ahead from the ethics committee. If everything goes smoothly, the results will arrive by May 2021.
As per a Reuters report, the COVID-19 vaccine program will receive 33.6 million pounds ($43.5 million) from the UK Government. The challenge trial will occur with the assistance of hVIVO and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.
The trial will involve paid volunteers between the ages of 18 and 30. The first phase will determine the minimum dose of Coronavirus required to infect a person successfully.
After this, subsequent phases will see volunteers getting vaccinated and then being exposed to the virus. The entire procedure will take place under the supervision of experts.
Although human challenge trials are not uncommon, they have usually been adopted for diseases that are not easily traceable. Since COVID-19 is already an enraging pandemic, some people have come out opposing such trials for this disease.
On the other end, those who back the decision have urged scientists to extensively carry out similar tests.
In a press release, Imperial College London’s Peter Openshaw stated, “It is really vital that we move as fast as possible towards getting effective vaccines and other treatments for COVID-19, and challenge studies have the potential to accelerate and de-risk the development of novel drugs and vaccines.”
Once the UK’s vaccine program is over and the results are out, we’ll see if the trade-off between the potential risks and the scientific outcome was worth it.