Scientists to ‘deliberately infect UK volunteers’ with Covid-19 in vaccine test

The UK will reportedly host clinical trials in which volunteers are deliberately infected with coronavirus to test experimental vaccines.

The government-funded project is expected to begin in January at a quarantine facility in London, the Financial Times reports, citing people involved in the project.

Volunteers will be first inoculated with a vaccine and later receive a challenge dose of the coronavirus, but the vaccine that will be tested in the project has not been named.

About 2,000 participants have reportedly signed up through a US-based advocacy group, 1Day Sooner.

Any trials conducted in the UK have to be approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the healthcare regulator which looks into safety and protocol.

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The MHRA, 1Day Sooner and its 18-year old lead organiser, Alastair Fraser-Urquhart, did not immediately respond to media requests for comment.

The industry has seen discussions in recent months about potentially having to inject healthy volunteers with the novel coronavirus if drugmakers struggled to find enough patients for final trials.

The FT report said that volunteers would first be inoculated with a vaccine and later receive a challenge dose of the coronavirus. It did not name the vaccines that would be assessed in the project.

British drugmaker AstraZeneca, whose experimental Covid-19 vaccine is being developed with the University of Oxford is leading the race, told Reuters that it was not involved in the programme.

French firm Sanofi also told Reuters it was not part of the initiative.

Imperial College, which is developing its own coronavirus vaccine and is the academic partner of the programme, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nations around the world are working on developing a vaccine for Covid-19 at an unprecedented speed.

On Monday Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government's chief scientific adviser, said while a few doses of an effective vaccine may be available by the end of the year, it's far more likely to become widely available in the first half of 2021.

A large study testing AstraZeneca's promising vaccine was put on hold earlier this month after a participant suffered a suspected serious adverse reaction.

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