Thousands of healthy volunteers, including hundreds of Canadians, have offered to try getting injected with a potential vaccine and then purposely becoming infected with COVID-19 to test if the vaccine works. Jonathan Kimmelman, a professor of biomedical ethics at McGill University, expressed concerns about the risks. Researchers are still learning about how COVID-19 affects different types of people, and there are currently no “rescue medications” that could be given to a healthy volunteer who develops severe complications. Given those factors, Kimmelman said it’s unclear whether the approach is appropriate so early in the pandemic.“Many people are saying they might speed up the process of developing a vaccine. Because we're so new into the process of developing a vaccine for COVID-19, it's not yet 100 per cent clear how much we actually really need this technique to advance the pace of vaccine development. It might turn out to be crucial. It might not,” he said.
He added that human challenge trials shouldn’t be considered a substitute for more standard field studies, which take longer but typically study a wider demographic pool. “The kinds of people that we actually need to use the vaccine are often going to be people who are not like healthy 20-year-olds. They're going to be in elderly populations, people who are immunocompromised and whatnot,” he said.