Britain may start ‘human challenge’ trials of potential Covid-19 vaccine soon


Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

BRITAIN may soon start ‘human challenge’ trials of potential Covid-19 vaccines under which volunteers are deliberately infected with the disease.



A British biotech firm was in advanced talks with the government to create and provide strains of the virus, reported Reuters.

Preliminary work for the trials, which aim to speed up the process of determining the efficacy of a vaccine candidate, is being carried out by hVIVO, a unit of pharmaceutical services company Open Orphan, the company said on Friday(16).

If agreed, this would involve creating a ‘human challenge’ study model that could be used should such trials gain ethical and safety approval from regulators.



Supporters of human challenge trials say they are a good way to cut short the often lengthy process of testing potential vaccines on tens of thousands of volunteers in the real world who go about normal life and are monitored to see if they contract the disease or are protected from it.

In these tightly-controlled trials, volunteers are given a vaccine and then about a month later are deliberately infected with the disease under controlled conditions. They are then isolated in a quarantine facility and monitored to see if they become sick or if the vaccine protects them.

Critics say deliberately infecting someone with a potentially deadly disease for which there is currently no effective treatment is unethical.



Any human challenge trials conducted in Britain would have to be approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the healthcare regulator that looks into safety, ethics and protocol.