Humans To Be Deliberately Infected With Covid In UK To Speed Up Vaccine
The 'human challenge studies', which are being backed by the government, would see a group of 90 participants aged 18 to 30 who have received the jab exposed to the virus.
They will then be carefully monitored to examine how the vaccine works, and whether or not they face any side effects.
If it is approved, the UK would become the first nation to deliberately infect people with coronavirus as part of a vaccination trial, with aims for the trials to begin in January.
Lead researcher on the human challenge study Dr Chris Chiu, from Imperial College London, said: "Our number one priority is the safety of the volunteers. No study is completely risk-free, but the Human Challenge Programme partners will be working hard to ensure we make the risks as low as we possibly can.
"The UK's experience and expertise in human challenge trials, as well as in wider Covid-19 science, will help us tackle the pandemic, benefiting people in the UK and worldwide."
According to the BBC, the government is putting £33.6 million towards the groundbreaking research.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: "We are doing everything we can to fight coronavirus, including backing our best and brightest scientists and researchers in their hunt for a safe and effective vaccine.
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"The funding announced today for these ground-breaking but carefully controlled studies marks an important next step in building on our understanding of the virus and accelerating the development of our most promising vaccines which will ultimately help in beginning our return to normal life."
The Government's Vaccine Taskforce chairwoman Kate Bingham said: "This research will improve understanding of the virus, the biology of the disease, the signs that a person is protected from infection or developing the disease, the vaccine candidates, and will help in making decisions about research, that it is carried out safely and based on up-to-date evidence.
"There is much we can learn in terms of immunity, the length of vaccine protection, and reinfection."
The studies will be carried out at the Royal Free Hospital in London, and will involve young, healthy participants that have been carefully selected by researchers - and who will be compensated for their involvement.
Volunteers will be monitored for up to a year after taking part in the study, in order to check for any side-effects.
England's deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, added: "First, for the many vaccines still in the mid-stages of development, human challenge studies may help pick out the most promising ones to take forward into larger phase three trials.
"Second, for vaccines which are in the late stages of development and already proven to be safe and effective through phase three studies, human challenge studies could help us further understand if the vaccines prevent transmission as well as preventing illness."
Featured Image Credit: PA
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