Coronavirus

Human Challenge Trials and COVID-19

Should we intentionally expose willing participants to the coronavirus?

|

Deaths from COVID-19 are dropping, but we probably can't resume normal life until someone develops a vaccine. Experts say it will take at least 12 to 18 months.

Why so long?

Because to make sure a vaccine works, researchers must recruit lots of volunteers and wait for them to get sick.

First, they inject the volunteers. Half get the test vaccine; half get a placebo. Then, the test subjects resume their normal lives, and researchers watch to see who gets sick.

For that research to work, there must be enough of the coronavirus around for enough volunteers to get the coronavirus.

But now COVID-19 cases are declining. Researchers worry that there won't be enough sick people to test it on.

Fortunately, there's a way to speed testing up, if regulators allow it. It's called a human challenge trial.

"'Challenge' means that you intentionally expose people to the coronavirus…'challenging' them with the virus," explains Carson Poltorack in my new video.

Poltorack is a member of One Day Sooner, a group of mostly healthy young people who volunteered to be infected with the coronavirus. So far, 24,000 people from 100 countries have volunteered. They are willing to risk their lives if it means the world get a vaccine sooner.

"It's the right thing to do," says Poltorack.

The idea of a challenge trial is not new. Such trials were used to find treatments for malaria, typhoid, dengue fever, and cholera. But there were treatments for those diseases. So far, we have no reliable treatment for COVID-19.

"People your age do die from COVID," I say to Poltorack.

"Absolutely." He responds. "I'm 23. The risk of somebody from 18 to 30 is about 3 in 10,000, the same as if you were to donate a kidney."

Poltorack volunteered after reading a paper where bioethicist Nir Eyal argued that challenge trials would develop a vaccine sooner, without much added risk.

"We put people through risks in clinical trials all the time," says Eyal.

Young people are more likely to take such risks. Some volunteer to fight wars. Fighting this pandemic, say One Day Sooner volunteers, is like that.

One recorded a video where she says it is "maybe the most important thing I will ever do."

But some doctors say it shouldn't be done.

"We need to wait," says Dr. Jennifer Miller, bioethics professor at Yale Medical School.

She says a challenge trial may not save much time. "You have to develop the challenge virus strain…test it in animals…figure out the correct dose. That can take 6 to 18 months."

Maybe. Virologist Stanley Plotkin, developer of the rubella vaccine, says it could take just two months.

I argue that the length of time shouldn't matter. "If individuals want to experiment, shouldn't it be their choice?" I ask Miller. "Why doesn't the volunteer get to say, 'I'm an adult. It's my body, I get to make the decision!?'"

"We have moral limits to what you can do with your freedoms," replies Miller. "We mandate that you wear helmets when you ride bicycles in some states. We say you have to wear a seatbelt for your protection…I'm not sure the added risks to the participants are justified."

"That's a decision that each individual informed volunteer can make for themselves," says Poltorack, wisely.

I obviously agree. I asked Poltorack, "One month's difference in the development of a vaccine could save a thousand lives?"

"No, probably far more than that," he answers. "Probably in the range of tens to hundreds of thousands."

Some bureaucracies have come around to the idea. Recently, the World Health Organization released a paper on challenge trials. Thirty-five members of Congress wrote the FDA asking it to consider a challenge trial.

We adults should be allowed to make our own decisions about what we do with our own bodies.

If some people want to get infected, let them!

COPYRIGHT 2020 BY JFS PRODUCTIONS INC.
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

Advertisement

NEXT: Maybe Cops Should Be ‘Pulling Back’

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. we probably can’t resume normal life until someone develops a vaccine.

    Et tu, Stossel?

    When you brutally murder both your scientific credibility and your libertarian bona fides in the very first paragraph, why should I even bother reading the rest of the article?

    1. I read that as written; “we probably can’t resume normal life until someone develops a vaccine.”

      I do not think you are correct to interpret it as “I think we can’t resume normal life until someone develops a vaccine”

      Perhaps the solitary confinement without trail has affected your thought process?

        1. ❤️ USA
          I am now making extra $19k or more every month from home by doing very simple and easy job online from home. I have received exactly $20845 last month from this home job. Join now this job and start making extra cash online by follow instruction on the given website………….More here

      1. I interpret “we probably can’t” as having a note of resignation and capitulation. I don’t think that is the appropriate stance for a libertarian publication to be taking.

      2. He was just looking for something to rail against.

  2. I just bought a brand new BMW after having made $6375 this past one month and just over 12k last 4 week. This is the best and most financially rewarding job I’ve ever had. I actually started this few Weeks ago and almost immediately started to bring home minimum 74BUCKS p/h… Read More

    1. I think you will need to add some detail about how you got a loan for a new BMW with only $6375 down and just a few weeks of self employment history – – – –

      1. “Well, that stimulus check from President Trump helped *a lot*!”

  3. Some volunteer to fight wars. Fighting this pandemic, say One Day Sooner volunteers, is like that.

    What pandemic? The New Normal War is against *racism*.

  4. Should we intentionally expose willing participants to the coronavirus?

    In libertarian-speak, that should read “Should willing participants be free to intentionally expose themselves to the coronavirus?” Framing the question as “what should we be free to do to other people” is horseshit and whoever it is that writes these headlines and subs needs to be fired and have her they’s ass kicked.

  5. “We have moral limits to what you can do with your freedoms,” replies Miller. “We mandate that you wear helmets when you ride bicycles in some states. We say you have to wear a seatbelt for your protection…

    Some of us believe those are immoral limits. Unless you’re going to argue that for thousands of years people were acting immorally by not using mandatory safety equipment – I’ve seen picture of Moses parting the Red Sea and there wasn’t a single damn Israelite there wearing an approved flotation device and only a handful with so much as a pair of water wings or a boogie board.

    1. Well Said – Just about ready to post on this exact comment..
      “We have moral limits to what you can do with your freedoms,” — the [WE] foundation well on its way; painting the slippery slope towards dictatorship.

      Sell your souls to the [WE] foundation because you don’t own you; [WE] own you.

  6. Poltorack volunteered after reading a paper where bioethicist Nir Eyal argued that challenge trials would develop a vaccine sooner, without much added risk.

    A bioethicist on the right side of an argument? I…I just don’t know what to think anymore…

  7. “If individuals want to experiment, shouldn’t it be their choice?”

    Any chance Reason will ever advocate that this applies to *all* medical choices, and that we should be free to purchase medicine and medical care without having to pay a pound of flesh to the government licensed rent-seeking medical mafia?

  8. I am making a good salary from home $1200-$2500/week , which is amazing, under a year back I was jobless in a horrible economy. I thank God every day I was blessed with these instructions and now it’s my duty to pay it forward and share it with Everyone, Here is what I do. Follow details…… Read More  

  9. Stossel’s own subtitled question is itself showing a morally corrupt thinking. Should we intentionally expose willing participants to the coronavirus?

    So who is the we here?
    With respect to an individual undergoing intentional exposure to a (slightly) lethal virus, there is no ‘we’ who has any moral agency to decide the fate of an individual.

    As a society, a form of ‘we’, there might be a hope that among our miltitudes there are people who have the individual desire to accept personal risk for the benefit of all. But there is no ‘we’ in this decision to intentionally expose anyone to anything.

    1. +1000; Perfectly said.

  10. I’m glad Oklahoma didn’t shut down completely. At least Walmarts in Norman were open. And Target.

    Recent reports suggest that asymptomatic carriers may not be spreaders after all. If true, masks & social distancing are ridiculous as everyone positive will know and not spread it.

Please to post comments