Coronavirus re-infection, is possible but the chances of that happening are very slim, says the World Health Organization (WHO).(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Top scientists call for Covid-19 to test vaccines volunteers

CAPE TOWN- Over 100 prominent scientists, including 15 Nobel laureates, epidemiologists, and medical doctors are calling for thousands of healthy volunteers to step forward and allow themselves to be exposed to Covid-19 for the purposes of vaccine testing. 

The group of scientists have written an open letter to the director of the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH), Francis Collins, urging him to consider their proposed “challenge trials” which allows for human trials in the US.

Among the signatories is the director of Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, Professor Adrian Hill. The university has one of the leading prototypes of coronavirus vaccines. 

“The rationale for human challenge trials is that they can greatly accelerate the development of a Covid-19 vaccine,” scientists said in the letter. 

“Human challenge trials can provide information much faster than conventional efficacy trials, which take months longer.  In such trials, volunteers still receive the vaccine candidate or a control. Instead of resuming life as usual and waiting to ‘catch’ a virus, volunteers are deliberately exposed to the pathogen under controlled conditions. Beyond being faster than conventional trials, a challenge test is likelier to conclude with interpretable results, e.g. should the presence of virus around the study site begin to fade over time.”

The group of scientists said if the trials safely and effectively speed the vaccine development process, there could be a presumption in favor of their use, which would require a very compelling ethical justification to overcome. 

The ideal trial participants should be relatively young, between 20-29 years old and in good health. 

Concluding the letter, the scientists said “if done properly, live Coronavirus human challenge trials can be an important way to accelerate vaccine development and, ideally, to save the lives of millions around the world as well as help rescue global economies,”.

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