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The risky way to speed up a coronavirus vaccine

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The risky way to speed up a coronavirus vaccine

A Covid-19 vaccine could take a long time. Some scientists are proposing a controversial plan that could get us one faster.

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With thousands of people dying of Covid-19 every day, the sooner a vaccine can be deemed safe and effective, the better. But vaccine development is a lengthy process that isn’t easy to rush, and that’s in part because of the final step in testing any vaccine: the phase III trial. Phase III requires tens of thousands of volunteers, each of whom get either a placebo or an experimental vaccine. The problem is the next part: Vaccine developers have to wait until a statistically significant number of them, going about their lives normally, eventually get naturally infected. This can take years.

To speed that up, some epidemiologists and scientists are calling for something called a human challenge trial, in which a subject who has been given the vaccine is deliberately infected. This isn’t a new concept; human challenge trials have been used to develop vaccines or treatments for lots of diseases, like cholera, typhoid, malaria, influenza, and common cold viruses. But what sets Covid-19 apart from those diseases is that it currently has no effective treatment. Because it’s so new, we also aren’t fully aware of its long-term health effects. Unlike other human challenge trials, a Covid-19 challenge trial would entail a risk of serious illness — and even death.

It’s because of those risks that a Covid-19 challenge trial would be limited to the young and healthy, who would be at the lowest risk of harm. But there are questions beyond the ethics. Would artificially infecting someone in a lab setting provide useful information on how to prevent natural infection? Would a study performed on only young and healthy people produce a vaccine that works for everyone? And with some vaccines already far along in their phase III trials, would a human challenge trial do any good at this point?

Even though no Covid-19 human challenge trials are currently planned, more than 30,000 people from nearly 150 countries have already said they would volunteer for one if the opportunity presented itself. The question is, should we let them?

Note: The headline on this piece has been updated.
Previous headline: Would you volunteer to get Covid-19?

Further reading:

1DaySooner is the grassroots organization recruiting volunteers for the possibility of a human challenge trial:


For more of Vox’s coverage on human challenge studies:


For more on the ethical and acceptance concerns with vaccine development:


For a history of challenge studies for other diseases:


For coverage of the typhoid vaccine we mention in the video:


For coverage of Oxford University’s statement on human challenge trials:


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The controversial push to fast-track a COVID-19 vaccine

Human challenge trials could make finding a COVID-19 vaccine faster, but the controversial approach involves exposing volunteers to the virus to see if a potential vaccine works. The National’s Andrew Chang finds out more about this process and the people volunteering to be test subjects. 

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#COVIDvaccine
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UK sees 100,000 sign up for COVID-19 vaccine tests

More Britons are being urged to contribute to future vaccine candidate trials after an initial 100,000 volunteers signed up.

Those who add themselves to the registry can be contacted by researchers organising large-scale clinical trials of coronavirus vaccines.

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Coronavirus Vaccine: NYU's Dr. Robyn Gershon talks COVID-19 vaccine concerns

Robyn Gershon, Clinical Professor of Epidemiology at New York University’s School of Public Health discusses COVID-19 concerns.
#Coronavirus #COVID-19 #coronavirusvaccine

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How Coronavirus Vaccine Rollout Might Work | TODAY

NBC News medical contributor Dr. John Torres joins TODAY’s Sheinelle Jones to discuss where we stand in terms of a coronavirus vaccine. He says three companies are in phase three of a vaccine trial and the earliest approvals might come in “late winter, early spring.
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How Coronavirus Vaccine Rollout Might Work | TODAY

How COVID-19 vaccines are being created quickly without sacrificing safety

Some potential COVID-19 vaccines are already in the third stage of clinical trials. It’s taken a lot of effort and money to squeeze a process that can normally take five years into about 10 months and still be done safely.

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Coronavirus vaccine: Moderna CEO discusses COVID-19 vaccine development and timeline

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel joins The Final Round to discuss the company's COVID-19 vaccine development.
#coronavirusvaccine #COVID19vaccine #ModernaCEO
This segment originally aired on September 18, 2020.
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How Close Are We To A Coronavirus Vaccine? | NBC News NOW

With the FDA willing to fast track a coronavirus vaccine before phase three trails end, there's a likelihood we could see immunizations by the end of 2020. NBC News' Dr. John Torres weighs in.
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NBC News Digital is a collection of innovative and powerful news brands that deliver compelling, diverse and engaging news stories. NBC News Digital features NBCNews.com, MSNBC.com, TODAY.com, Nightly News, Meet the Press, Dateline, and the existing apps and digital extensions of these respective properties. We deliver the best in breaking news, live video coverage, original journalism and segments from your favorite NBC News Shows.

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How Close Are We To A Coronavirus Vaccine? | NBC News NOW

Trump Promises Coronavirus Vaccine Before The End Of 2020 | TODAY

As he accepted the Republican nomination in a speech on the White House grounds, President Trump definitively promised a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year, if not even sooner. Health officials have called that timeline unrealistic. NBC White House correspondent Peter Alexander reports for TODAY.
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#Coronavirus #Trump #TodayShow

Trump Promises Coronavirus Vaccine Before The End Of 2020 | TODAY

Drugmakers sign safety pledge amid race to develop coronavirus vaccine

The CEOs of nine drugmakers vowed not to seek approval for coronavirus vaccines until they're proved safe and effective. Meanwhile, AstraZeneca paused its closely-watched vaccine trial after one participant developed a possible adverse reaction. Adriana Diaz has the details.

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Could “challenge trials” speed coronavirus vaccine development? - BBC News

Scientists have warned it could be many months, before we know if any of the coronavirus vaccines currently undergoing trials are effective. One way to speed up the process, would be if so-called 'challenge trials' are allowed, where volunteers are given the vaccine and then deliberately infected with coronavirus, to see if they're protected. But some experts aren’t convinced such trials are safe or necessary. Our Medical Editor Fergus Walsh reports.

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UK secures early access to 90 million doses of two more COVID-19 vaccine candidates

As 29 global trials remain in play, the UK government hopes that at least one purchase deal already confirmed proves to be safe and effective.

It comes as Russia announced a vaccine dubbed “Sputnik V”, in reference to their artificial satellite, Sputnik 1 as plans are being started for mass vaccinations later this year.

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Covid-19: When will a vaccine be ready? | The Economist

Around $10bn is being spent on finding a vaccine for coronavirus—it’s not nearly enough. And even when a covid-19 vaccine is found how should it be distributed fairly? Our experts answer your questions.

00:00 Covid-19: When will a vaccine be ready?
00:50 Will there ever be a “silver-bullet” vaccine?
01:41 How long would it take for the whole world to be vaccinated?
02:25 Who benefits financially from the vaccine?
03:54 How much will each vaccine cost?
05:10 What percentage of Americans do you estimate will choose not to get vaccinated, and how much of an issue will this be?
06:44 In an ideal world, how should a vaccine be optimally distributed?
07:21 Will new versions of the vaccine be required periodically?
07:54 Will developing countries receive equal access to the vaccine, or will they be left behind?
08:50 Should richer countries pay for vaccines in the developing world?
10:01 How should we respond to crises like this one in the future?

Further reading:

Find The Economist’s most recent coverage of covid-19 here:

Sign up to The Economist’s daily newsletter to keep up to date with our latest covid-19 coverage:

Listen to “The Intelligence” podcast about the vaccine candidates and equitable distribution:

How the world can think better about catastrophic and existential risks:

Read our leader on how people must adapt to living in the covid-19 pandemic era:

How SARS-CoV-2 causes disease and death in covid-19:

Covid-19 testing labs are being overwhelmed:

How the pandemic has shown the urgency of reforming care for the elderly:

Read about the hunt for the origins of covid-19:

Coronavirus vaccine: Moderna is in talks with Japan for 40 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Yahoo Finance's Ines Ferre reports on Japan purchasing 40 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna.
#coronavirusvaccine #COVID19 #Moderna

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FDA commissioner talks coronavirus vaccine development

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn spoke with CBS News about how it will handle outside pressure to approve a coronavirus vaccine. Dr. Jon LaPook has more in CBS News' series Racing to a Cure.

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Coronavirus vaccine: CDC releases plans to make COVID-19 vaccines free for all in the United States

Yahoo Finance's Anjalee Khemlani reports on the latest news on vaccine distribution in the United States.
#coronavirusvaccine #COVID19vaccine #coronavirus

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Coronavirus vaccine: 35% of Americans unwilling to get COVID-19 vaccine: Poll

Emergency medicine physician assistant Dr. Alison Haddock discusses the poll which suggest that over a third of Americans are reluctant to get the COVID-19 vaccination. Also, Dr. Haddock discusses the timeline and development for vaccines in Russia and the United States.
#coronavirusvaccination #COVID19vaccine #Russia

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Coronavirus vaccine: Americans could get COVID-19 vaccine by end of 2020: Pfizer CEO

Yahoo Finance's Anjalee Khemlani breaks down the latest statement from Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla that a vaccine could be available by the end of 2020.

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Coronavirus vaccine faces hurdles in production, acceptance

Health experts say the public needs a coronavirus vaccine as soon as possible, but it needs to be tested thoroughly enough to ensure its safety. David Begnaud reports.

Coronavirus vaccine: What are human challenge trials? - BBC News

Human challenge trials are regarded by some as a faster way to develop vaccines - but they come with big risks.

Could they be used to speed up the development of a vaccine for Covid-19?

BBC Health Correspondent Laura Foster explains how they work.

Video by Terry Saunders, Megan Fisher and Laura Foster.

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