NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As scientists feverishly work to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, a controversial research measure is being considered — human challenge trials.

Already, thousands of young people have signed up to potentially put their lives on the line for a coronavirus cure, CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge reported uesday.

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Abie Rohrig knows several people who got sick or died from COVID-19. They inspired the 20-year-old to sign up for a potential trial, which means basically exposing himself to the virus that causes the disease to help find a vaccine sooner.

“It’s an uncomfortable idea to voluntarily get coronavirus, but the wartime analogy is often made … when people go to war, they know they might lose their life,” Rohrig said.


Despite the personal risks, Rohrig is one of nearly 30,000 volunteers from around the world who signed up through a group called 1 Day Sooner, founded by 34-year-old Josh Morrison in Brooklyn.

He and his team are working to pre-qualify healthy volunteers between the ages of 20 and 45 so that they’re ready if a trial were to be approved.

“This is just a really rough estimate, but to get a sense, let’s say each day of getting a vaccine sooner represents 7,000 lives. So a week is 50,000 people and a month would be more than 200,000,” Morrison said.

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The volunteers would only be called on by a testing agency for further qualification if a human challenge trial is approved. Then, a dose of the weakened virus would be sprayed into their nose and volunteers would be monitored in isolation units for weeks.

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“Part of the ethics of this is that challenge trials, there’s only been a few of these ever done in a vaccine trial,” CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez explained. “They are generally for either non-lethal or non-fatal diseases, or diseases for which we have a treatment. Corona is neither of those. It’s potentially fatal, and we don’t have a treatment for that. That’s why it’s ethically challenged.”

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How volunteers would be compensated still has to be determined. Coincidentally, Morrison and Rohrig are both kidney donors who have already risked their health to save lives of strangers, and they said they would do it again.


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