Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 1 November 2020

CORONAVIRUS

UK volunteers to be deliberately infected by Covid-19 to test vaccine effectiveness

Government-funded human challenge trials are expected to take place in January

Johnson & Johnson is beginning a huge final study to try to prove if its single-dose vaccine can protect against the coronavirus. AP
Johnson & Johnson is beginning a huge final study to try to prove if its single-dose vaccine can protect against the coronavirus. AP

The UK will host the first Covid-19 human challenge trials next January, where healthy volunteers are deliberately infected with the coronavirus to determine the effectiveness of vaccines.

The Financial Times said a 24-bed quarantine clinic in Whitechapel, East London, was being lined up to host the government-funded trials.

The facility is owned by hVivo, a company with extensive experience in human challenge clinical trials.

The British government said it was working with partners on the potential for the trials, without commenting on a specific plan.

"We are working with partners to understand how we might collaborate on the potential development of a Covid-19 vaccine through human challenge studies," a spokeswoman said.

"These discussions are part of our work to research ways of treating, limiting and hopefully preventing the virus so we can end the pandemic sooner."

Any trials conducted in the UK must be approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which looks into safety and protocol.

About 2,000 people in Britain have signed up for future challenge trials through the US advocacy group 1DaySooner.

British drug maker AstraZeneca, whose experimental Covid-19 vaccine is being developed with the University of Oxford, said it was not involved, as did French company Sanofi.

The industry has seen discussions in recent months about having to inject healthy volunteers with Covid-19 if drug makers struggled to find enough patients for final trials.

A handful of vaccines already are in final testing across the world with the newest late-stage study by US company Johnson & Johnson aiming to enrol 60,000 volunteers.

The World Health Organisation says challenge trials have been carried out for hundreds of years and contribute vital scientific knowledge that has led to important advances in developing vaccines.

Updated: September 24, 2020 02:58 AM

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