“Should scientists infect healthy people with the coronavirus to test vaccines?” asks the noted scientific journal Nature. “Radical proposal to conduct ‘human challenge’ studies could dramatically speed up vaccine research,” the article subhed reads.
Scientists are racing to come up with a vaccine to protect people from the spread of a virus that is shutting down the world economy and overloading hospitals with patients in several cities, including New York City. The faster they can protect people, the lower the effects of economic shutdown and the fewer people will be on ventilators and other life support.
In normal vaccine trials, Nature’s Ewen Calloway notes, scientists give thousands of people either a vaccine or placebo and then track them as they go about their lives, to see if those who received the potential vaccine contract the disease. “A quicker option would be to conduct a ‘human challenge’ study, argue scientists in a provocative preprint published this week,” Calloway notes. “This would involve exposing perhaps 100 healthy young people to the virus and seeing whether those who get the vaccine escape infection.”