Researchers worldwide are working round the clock in order to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. However, most of these are only in the initial stages, with clinical trials months, or even years away.
But one organization has garnered support from over 24,000 volunteers, who have agreed to be infected with COVID-19. In doing so, they hope to speed up the process of finding a COVID-19 vaccine.
Clinical Trials for COVID-19 involve vaccination followed by infection
The organization, called 1 Day Sooner, aims to use “human challenge trials” instead of the standard clinical trials in order to help speed up development for a vaccine.
Under the standard clinical trials, researchers provide either a vaccine or a placebo to thousands of volunteers. Researchers would then check who is infected, which gives them an idea of how effective the vaccine is.
With human challenge trials, researchers give volunteers a vaccine and then infect them with a disease afterward. This means that researchers can see results much faster, and they also need fewer volunteers.
1 Day Sooner’s goal is to show that people are willing to undergo human challenge trials to help find a cure for COVID-19. They can help connect these people to organizations or companies who express an interest in human challenge trials.
Most volunteers are healthy, young adults who want to help fight COVID-19
The organization plans to recruit healthy young adults aged 20 to 45 years old for any future human challenge trials. According to co-founder Josh Morrison, “We want to recruit as many people as possible who want to do this, and pre-qualify them as likely to be able to participate in challenge trials should they occur.”
According to Morrison, most of their volunteers are young people who want to contribute to the fight against COVID-19. He adds, “Many note that they recognize the risk but believe the benefits of vaccine acceleration are so tremendous that it is worth it to them.”
This is not the first time that human challenge trials have been proposed in order to help develop a vaccine. Previously, human challenge trials have been done for dengue, and influenza. However, it still raises some questions regarding ethics and safety. This is especially the case for COVID-19, since it is a relatively new virus, and researchers are still learning about how the virus behaves.
How Are Vaccines Developed?
Vaccines work by helping the body’s natural immune system to identify and combat any viruses or bacteria that can cause disease. Instead of a person needing to be infected and recover from a disease before getting immunity, vaccines develop immunity in the body so people do not get infected in the first place.
However, developing a vaccine takes a lot of time. Aside from the research involved in figuring out how to create the vaccine, clinical trials also have to be done. Trials are necessary since they not only help assess the effectivity of a vaccine, but they also help researchers find out if there are any harmful side effects.
Here are the stages that a vaccine goes through:
- Exploratory stage
- Pre-clinical stage
- Clinical development
- Regulatory review and approval
- Quality control
Clinical trials are done during the clinical development process, which is a three-phase process. During Phase 1, a small group of people would be given the vaccine. Phase 2 is an expanded study and the vaccine is given to a larger group of people who would benefit most from the vaccine. Phase 3 is a large-scale trial to test for effectiveness and safety.
The process takes a very long time, and rigorous testing is absolutely necessary. However, with the threat of COVID-19, the longer it takes to develop a vaccine. And the more people are at risk of being infected.
Is there a vaccine in development for COVID-19?
Moderna, a biotech company, is one of the companies currently developing a vaccine for COVID-19. They have also just released information regarding their Phase 1 clinical trials, and the results are positive.
The vaccine aims to increase the levels of antibodies in a person’s body, and help make it immune. It does this by increasing the level of antibodies so that the virus can’t take hold in a person’s body.
The company has demonstrated that these antibodies and immune response can block the virus, which is an important first step in the journey to finding a COVID-19 vaccine.
Phase 2 trials, will be starting soon with Phase 3 being planned for July.
According to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, the Philippines will be a part of these Phase 3 trials. But in the Philippines, these would happen around January 2021.
In an online briefing, Vergeire said, “We are still waiting for a vaccine that would proceed to this stage as required by the World Health Organization (WHO) before we can start with the solidarity trial for vaccines.”
Moderna is just one of 8 groups developing a vaccine for COVID-19. Pfizer and Inovio are also developing a vaccine, as well as the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom as well as four other groups in China.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.