This past Wednesday, the United Kingdom became the first country in the world to authorize an experiment in which healthy people will be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. A study by the ‘Human Challenge’ program, a partnership between Imperial College London, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), hVIVO, a clinical company, and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.
The objective is better understand the coronavirus to accelerate the development of vaccines to curb the global pandemic which started almost a year ago. A day after the announcement, it has been known that the 90 volunteers who present themselves to the experiment they will receive a compensation of 4,500 pounds -about 5,190 euros to change-, in exchange for being exposed to COVID-19, according to the British portal ‘Metro’.
Volunteers must be between an age range of 18 to 30 years, without risk factors and who have not previously had the disease. It will be then when the least amount of virus necessary to cause an infection is administered and they will do so through drops in the nose – they will receive less than a fifth of a milliliter. The study will begin with a 17-day quarantine, although the follow-up will last up to a year.
A controversial study
Since the intention to carry out this study was known, A debate has arisen about whether or not it is ethical to infect people to better understand the coronavirus. From the program that will be in charge of the investigation, they have ensured that their top priority is “the safety of the volunteers.” Professor Sir Terence Stephenson, president of the Health Research Authority (HRA), defended the payment that will be made to volunteers as a “reward for participating in these studies.”
“The sum is about 4,500 pounds, but that covers the initial stay and follow-up”explains the doctor. And it is that the study will be carried out initially with a quarantine of 17 days that supposes “a quite large imposition” since “it cannot be visited by any member of his family, friend or relative”. The teacher indicates that during On quarantine days, the first 1,500 pounds will be received, that is, about 88 pounds a day -about 100 euros- which, he assures, “no one will perceive as a ridiculous coercion or incentive.”
The Government invests 33.6 million pounds
Still waiting for more volunteers, this experiment is scheduled to begin in the next few weeks. Its objective is to “understand how the virus infects people, how it is transmitted so successfully among us ”, in addition to “Quickly test which vaccines and treatments work best to beat this disease”, as explained by Dr Chris Chiu, Senior Researcher in the Department of Infectious Diseases at Imperial College London.
In order to perform the experiment, the British Government has invested some £ 33.6 million and volunteers will be infected with the British strain, currently the majority in the country, although the decision could change as the studies progress. “We hope that these studies offer a unique view of how the virus works and help us understand which promising vaccines offer the best chance of preventing infection, ”said Clive Dix, Acting Chair of the Vaccine Task Force.