About 2,500 Britons will voluntarily be infected with the coronavirus. They do this to give scientists new insights into the epidemic and to help develop vaccines more quickly in the future. Phase one starts next month with 90 volunteers at the Royal Free Hospital in London.
The adult participants are all under the age of thirty for safety reasons. They will receive a dose of the virus in their nose.
The youngsters will then have to stay in the hospital for two to three weeks. If someone develops symptoms, they will be closely monitored. There is a financial reward of about 4,500 euros, but the participants mainly serve a higher purpose.
“Reflected on the dangers”
“Of course, I thought about the dangers,” says chemistry student Alex Greer (20). “The long-term consequences of this virus are not yet clear at all. In my view, the successful potential of these trials outweighs the small risk that I run myself. By the way, I’d rather be infected like this than during an evening at a café, at least now I know what to expect.”
“I just want to be able to contribute,” adds Jennifer Wright (29). “Some friends work in healthcare, they have had to take a lot of risks. Now it’s my turn.”
Alastair Fraser-Urquhart (18) is participating in helping end the pandemic faster. “This could save thousands of lives, so I immediately saw the use of it. Obviously, the intention is not to infect others, so we remain in quarantine in the hospital. And that as long as it takes, I’m not going to grumble about that.”
Professor Peter Openshaw emphasizes that the intention is not to make the guinea pigs sick. “We are very careful. With all our experience, we must be able to control the level of infection.”
The technique was first used in the eighteenth century by scientist Edward Jenner. He first infected his gardener’s healthy son with cowpox. After a week, the boy became slightly ill, he barely felt a thing. When he was vaccinated with the human smallpox virus sometime later, he turned out to be immune.
“These tests can provide an answer to the question of whether a vaccine will work and how it will work. Some vaccines will be on the market within three to four months, but I think we will use different formulations in two to three years. So it comes down to discovering exactly which ingredients make the difference,” Openshaw concludes.