The United Nations health agency posted a report that supports the idea of challenge studies to be considered an option in the fight against the coronavirus. The report has the support of the World Health Organization, according to reports. A challenge study is a study where subjects agree to be deliberately infected with the new coronavirus. The implications make it a controversial approach where both researchers and civilians split into two opposite camps.
The advantages of a challenge study are irrefutable, but so are the moral grounds of those opposing the idea. If you don’t look at the global health situation we’re confronting as a war with COVID-19, chances are you’ll be against this solution.
But if you look at it from the war perspective, the idea of a challenge study makes sense. It would be like sending troupes to the battlefield’s first line even though 265,657 deaths make the concept of the first-line look more like the only option there is.
Still, if you look at it from the human perspective, it becomes unethical. But if it is a war, ethics won’t stop it. Conflict is never moral, especially when the enemy isn’t a conscious entity.
Volunteering to get infected with coronavirus will allegedly boost the research on a vaccine
A challenge study “can be substantially faster to conduct than vaccine field trials. In part, because far fewer participants need to be exposed to experimental vaccines to provide (preliminary) estimates of efficacy and safety,” says the report led by Marc Lipsitch, a Harvard School of Public Health epidemiologist. To take a vaccine into the human trials, researchers need volunteers with specific trends.
They need to divide participants into groups considering those trends. But the natural spread of the virus makes it difficult to assess and control the efficiency of the vaccine. This is why healthy people volunteering to be infected are needed.
“Obviously, challenging volunteers with this live virus risks inducing severe disease and possibly even death,” acknowledge the researchers. “I’m not sure I am a huge fan of it really for both practical and ethical reasons. As is often the case, the devil is in the details,” said Tal Zaks, Moderna’s chief medical officer. Moderna Inc. works on the first vaccine for COVID-19.
Still, there are 14.000 people from 102 countries that volunteered to get infected with coronavirus and participate in the challenge study, according to 1Day Sooner foundation’s website where those people signed up.