In late-September, the Financial Times reported that the United Kingdom was set to be the first country in the world to test a vaccine against coronavirus by infecting healthy volunteers with Sars-Cov-2.
The UK government confirmed on Tuesday that the country is set to become the first country in the world to deliberately infect healthy volunteers with the coronavirus.
According to Imperial College London the study, involving healthy volunteers between 18 and 30, would be conducted in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust and hVivo.
In a move to find the ‘lowest possible safe dose’, up to 90 volunteers would receive a dose of COVID-19 through their nose.
The trials are set to start in January, with volunteers staying at a specialist diseases clinic in the Royal Free Hospital in London, where their symptoms will be closely monitored.
“We think that by taking every precaution we can really limit the infection and then we should be able to do it quite safely given the vast amount of experience that we have in this field,” Professor Peter Openshaw, from Imperial College London, said commenting on the trials.
In September, the third phase of more conventional anti-coronavirus vaccine trials run by AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical company, and Oxford University were paused due to a reported side effect in one of the British participants.
The phase later resumed in the country, but remained on hold in the United States, as around 30,000 participants were recruited for the trials worldwide, including in Brazil and South Africa.
It was later reported that the patient in question was not the only one who suffered an unexplained illness – it was later revealed to be related to an inflammation of the spinal cord. A similar side effect has apparently been experienced already, by another female British participant during the summer, but the matter was not initially reported by AstraZeneca.
It was earlier pointed out by Russian researchers that anti-COVID-19 vaccines developed by some of their international colleagues and made using mRNA and monkey adenoviral vector-based platforms rely on “novel, unproven technologies”.
Unlike the human adenoviral vector used in the US’ Johnson & Johnson, China’s CanSino and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines, the scientists note that AstraZeneca’s monkey adenovirus-based vaccine had not been studied over a long period of time.