Infecting people with COVID-19 could speed vaccine trials. Is it worth it?

Wednesday, May 27, 2020 - 05:10 in Health & Medicine

The world waits with bated breath for a COVID-19 vaccine, which could effectively end the pandemic once it’s widely available. Until then, more people will die from the disease, and economies will struggle to fully recover. With such intense pressure to get a vaccine quickly, many experts are contemplating a controversial shortcut to the usual vaccine testing protocol: human challenge trials. Instead of vaccinating hundreds to thousands of people and waiting to see if they naturally catch the virus, scientists would purposely infect a smaller number of vaccinated volunteers with COVID-19 in a controlled setting to see if a vaccine offered protection. If successful, such studies could fast-track vaccine evaluation, as well as our understanding of COVID-19 immunity. However, doctors and researchers don’t all agree on whether it’s ethical to infect people with a disease that remains poorly understood, and for which there is currently no reliable treatment. That leaves it to those bioethicists, researchers and regulators to weigh the pros and cons. Sign...

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