Speeding up coronavirus vaccine development by intentionally infecting the healthy? Volunteers are lining up

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Credit: Noel Celis/AFP

Momentum is building to speed the development of coronavirus vaccines by intentionally infecting healthy, young volunteers with the virus. A grass-roots effort has attracted nearly 1,500 potential volunteers for the controversial approach, known as a human-challenge trial.

The effort, called 1 Day Sooner, is not affiliated with groups or companies developing or funding coronavirus vaccines. But co-founder Josh Morrison hopes to show that there is broad support for human-challenge trials.

Typical vaccine trials take a long time because thousands of people receive either a vaccine or a placebo, and researchers track who becomes infected in the course of their daily lives. A challenge study could in theory be much faster: a much smaller group of volunteers would receive a candidate vaccine and then be intentionally infected with the virus, to judge the efficacy of the immunization.

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Morrison says that the people who have signed up to be part of a challenge trial tend to be young and live in urban areas, and are highly motivated to do something constructive to address the coronavirus pandemic. “Many note that they recognize the risk but believe the benefits of vaccine acceleration are so tremendous that it is worth it to them,” he says.

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