WHO suggests controversial “critical study” needed to speed up search for coronavirus vaccine

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The World Health Organization has suggested that deliberate infection of healthy volunteers with a coronavirus could help speed up the search for a potential vaccine.

In a report released Wednesday, the WHO, which was pressured for its initial response to the epidemic in China and the global pandemic that followed, suggested that the so-called “challenge studies” could “be much faster to perform than field trials of vaccines ”.

“Well-designed challenge studies could thus not only accelerate the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, but also increase the probability that the vaccines ultimately deployed will be more effective,” suggests the preamble to the report.

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The report acknowledges that these studies are “ethically sensitive,” but says they have a long history that has helped accelerate the development of typhoid and cholera vaccines.

It sets out eight conditions that should be met for such a study, including the scientific rationale and the potential benefits, and suggests that people between the ages of 18 and 30 may be best suited for such a study.

Regarding the potential benefits, he argues that this could lead to more lives saved as well as “a faster return to normal global social function and to the related public health benefits”.

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But under certain drawbacks, he concedes that this could lead to an erosion of confidence in challenge studies, research or vaccines as a whole.

Tal Zaks, chief medical officer of health for Moderna Inc., where a vaccine for COVID-19 is being developed, told Bloomberg, who first reported on the study, was unsure whether a challenge study would accelerate development.

“I’m not sure I’m a big fan of it for both practical and ethical reasons,” said Zaks. “As is often the case, the devil is in the details. “

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Earlier this week, Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech announced that the first doses of a vaccine have been injected in human patients.

The first dosage of the BNT162 vaccination program started in Germany last week, according to a company statement. The trial phase aims to enroll up to 360 patients, aged 18 to 55 years. Once the younger group has produced strong evidence of safety and immunogenicity, testing in older adults or between 65 and 85 years of age will begin.

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According to the World Health Organization, 102 potential COVID-19 vaccines were in development as of April 30. Eight of the candidates were approved for clinical trials.

President Trump predicted a coronavirus vaccine could be available by December at a Fox News virtual town hall on Sunday.

“I think we will have a vaccine by the end of the year,” Trump told moderators, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum of Fox News, saying he was “very confident” in the assessment. “We will have a vaccine much sooner than later. “

As of 6 a.m. on Thursday, there had been more than 3.7 million cases of coronavirus worldwide, with more than 264,000 deaths. The United States recorded the most cases, with 1.2 million, and more than 73,000 deaths.

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