coronavirus vaccine

Volunteers Could Be Infected With COVID as Part of UK Trial

Supporters say the trials can be quicker than regular vaccine tests, while critics argue too little is known about the coronavirus to make them safe

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Volunteers in the United Kingdom look set to be intentionally infected with COVID-19 as part of an experimental trial that could change scientists' understanding of the virus, NBC News reports.

The U.K. government announced Tuesday it is investing 33.6 million pounds (about $43.5 million) in the first stage of what are known as "challenge trials." The groundbreaking but controversial studies involve volunteers being injected with a potential vaccine before being given a dose of COVID-19.

The trials could start in January of next year if they get regulatory and ethical approval first, the U.K. government said in a statement.

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Supporters say challenge trials can be far quicker than regular vaccine tests, potentially shortening the wait until the world has access to an effective inoculation. But critics argue that too little is known about COVID-19 to make challenge trials safe. While young people rarely die of the disease, there is increasing evidence they can be left with long-term debilitating illnesses.

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CORRECTION (Oct. 20, 2020, 5:45 am. ET): An earlier version of this story made it seem that the "challenge trials" were already approved to begin in the United Kingdom. The trials are actually still under regulatory and ethical review.

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