FILE PHOTO: Deputy charge nurse Katie McIntosh administers the first of two Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine jabs, to Vivien McKay Clinical Nurse Manager at the Western General Hospital, on the first day of the largest immunisation programme in the British history, in Edinburgh, Scotland Britain December 8, 2020. Andrew Milligan/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain on Wednesday became the first country in the world to allow volunteers to be exposed to the COVID-19 virus to advance medical research into the pandemic.
The trial, which will begin within a month, will see up to 90 healthy volunteers aged 18-30 exposed to COVID-19 in a safe and controlled environment to increase understanding of how the virus affects people, the government said.
In order to make the trial as safe as possible, the version of the virus that has been circulating in England since March 2020 will be used rather than one of the new variants.
The study will initially seek to establish the smallest amount of virus needed to cause infection, it said. Volunteers could then be given vaccine candidates before being exposed to the virus.
The volunteers will be compensated for taking part.
British Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the study would help to find the best and most effective vaccines for use over the longer term.
“These human challenge studies will take place here in the UK and will help accelerate scientists’ knowledge of how coronavirus affects people and could eventually further the rapid development of vaccines,” he said.
The government’s vaccines task force, Imperial College London, the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust and clinical company hVIVO, which has pioneered viral human challenge models, are working on the study.
Reporting by Paul Sandle, editing by Sarah Young and Christian Schmollinger