Laboratories around the United States have launched initiatives to test hundreds of thousands of people as the momentum is building to speed the development of coronavirus vaccines. A typical vaccine takes a long time to develop as it uses thousands of people who receive either a vaccine or a placebo.

Researchers then track the people who got infected with the virus in the course of their daily lives. But with a challenge study, in theory, will be much faster because it only uses a small sample to be infected and test the efficacy of their immunization.

Researchers take a gamble in developing vaccines

The grassroots movement has attracted nearly 1,500 volunteers to take part in the controversial 'human challenge' trials. This involves intentionally infecting healthy, and young people with COVID-19 to test the effects of potential vaccines.

1DaySooner, the name of the movement is not affiliated with groups or companies that are developing or funding vaccines against COVID-19. Its co-founder Josh Morrison hopes to show authorities that many people support the human-challenge trials which have the potential to make coronavirus vaccine more quickly than the standard trials.

Human challenge trials have been used in the past to develop vaccines for influenza, malaria, typhoid, dengue fever, and cholera. Through this, researchers hope to save thousands to millions of lives.

Morrison, who is also the executive director of organ donation advocacy group Waitlist Zero, said that they aim to recruit as many people as possible to take part in the study, and pre-qualify them as likely to be able to participate in the human challenge trials should it push through.

"At the same time, we feel that the public policy decisions around challenge trials will be better informed if they highlight the voice of people interested in participating in such trials," Morrison added.

The volunteers in the study tend to be young and came from urban areas. They are highly motivated to do something constructive to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of them recognize the risk they will be taking but the benefits of the vaccine acceleration are so great that it is worth it to them.

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Acceptance of the study

According to Nature, the human challenge studies have been conducted before for other diseases as a team by bioethicist Nir Eyal at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey said that it can be conducted safely and ethically. They published their results in the journal of infectious Diseases last month.

Moreover, the approach is also gaining some political approval. Just recently, the Department of Health and Human Services director Alex Azar was called on by the 35 members of Congress led by Bill Foster and donna Shalala to consider human-challenge trials of coronavirus vaccines.

Meanwhile, the head of the vaccines programme at Wellcome, a biomedical-research funder in London, Charlie Weller, said that thhe foundation is also considering the ethics and logistics of the human trial for a coronavirus vaccine. However, it is still unclear whether such trial could speed the development of vaccines.

There are still factors to consider in considering using this approach. First, they have to determine how to expose volunteers to the virus as safely as possible. Secondly, they also have to consider how and even whether such studies can be done ethically. These are just some questions that they have to go through to understand whether it can help given the available timeline.

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