In a bid to speed up the race to find a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, the U.K. government announced Tuesday morning that it will be launching some controversial vaccine studies known as challenge trials.
In a world first for COVID-19, young healthy volunteers will be vaccinated, then intentionally exposed to the potentially deadly virus in order to test vaccines in a controlled environment. Although some medical experts view them as ethically questionable, the benefit of challenge trials is that they can be completed in a much shorter timeframe than typical late-stage studies.
The experiment will take place in a quarantine ward of a hospital in north London. After inhaling a diluted dose of the virus, the trial participants will be closely monitored, thus enabling scientists and doctors to better understand the disease and how a vaccine can fight it.
“Human challenge studies can increase our understanding of COVID-19 in unique ways and accelerate development of the many potential new COVID-19 treatments and vaccines,” said Dr. Chris Chiu of Imperial College London’s Department of Infectious Disease, a lead researcher on the human challenge study.