To find a coronavirus vaccine, can we ethically infect people with a disease with no cure?


Vaccine trials can take decades. In the race against COVID-19, we don’t even have years.

To have a vaccine by next summer will require both luck and cutting corners never cut before, putting once seemingly academic questions about vaccine testing suddenly front and center.

Current rules are meant to protect volunteers from harm, but with the global death count from the coronavirus over 250,000, scientists are asking: Is it acceptable to deliberately infect healthy people with a disease that could kill them, and for which there is no cure?

It’s called a challenge trial, and increasing scientists say the answer is yes.

The tried and true method would be to vaccinate tens of thousands of people, let them go about their daily, socially distanced lives and see who gets sick, knowing some small number would have anyway. That takes time.

To speed up the process, some researchers are planning to give volunteers experimental vaccines and then infect them with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

“You’re weighing risks and benefit to the individual versus benefit to society as a whole,” said David Magnus, director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford University. – READ MORE

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