In a new poll, researchers surveyed 5,920 people from 8 countries to gauge their attitude toward accelerated COVID-19 vaccine trials, such as human challenge trials, which deliberately expose participants to infection, and Phase II / Phase III integrated trials.
The researchers find “a broad majority of the public prefers designs that accelerate COVID-19 vaccine development and sees them as ethical, even if it means increasing risk to the human subjects who volunteer with informed consent to participate.”
Notably, the researchers write that “this high support is consistent across every geography and demographic subgroup we examined, including people of diverging political orientations and vulnerable populations such as the elderly, essential workers, and racial and ethnic minorities.”
The World Health Organization has expressed concerns about whether the public would see COVID-19 challenge trials as ethical and has called for consulting the public regarding them. The authors conclude that “these findings bolster the case for these accelerated designs and can help assuage concerns that they would undermine public trust in vaccines.”
This poll comes after 15 Nobel Laureates, 100+ prominent figures, and 2,000+ volunteers signed an open letter to Dr. Francis Collins of the NIH in support of challenge trials. Adrian Hill, Director of Oxford’s Jenner Institute and signatory of the open letter, told The Guardian that “We’re hoping to be doing challenge trials by the end of the year.” This is the first time a vaccine developer has announced efforts to conduct a COVID-19 challenge trial. The Jenner Institute and 1Day Sooner are collaborating on preparing to manufacture the virus for use in challenge trials.