In the world’s first ever ‘human challenge trial’, 2,500 volunteers will deliberately be infected with covid-19 with the aim of enhancing scientific research on the pandemic. The incentive? Volunteers are to be paid up to £4,000 for a two to three week stay.

The trial, led by Imperial College London, is anticipated to begin in January 2021 at the Royal Free Hospital in London. Participants are vaccinated before they expose themselves. In an interview I did with Miss Katie Palmer, a chemistry tutor from Morden, I asked for her thoughts on the trial. ‘The initial study is currently only seeking volunteers aged 18-30 – the age group statistically suggested to be the least at risk from SARS-CoV-2 [the virus that causes Covid-19]. I think that those who have nominated themselves to participate in this pioneering human trial are worthy of great respect. Inevitably, the nature of a trial like this carries great risk, but at the same time this risk could be a step forward in helping us get back normality. Whilst it’s undeniable that everyone can catch the disease, we have to remember that these vaccines have been developed by some of the most successful and talented scientists in the country’. 

On asking whether she would want to partake in the trial, Miss Palmer replies: ‘Absolutely… if I could. I live with three young children and my elderly mother who needs my support. I agree that deliberately exposing yourself to a deadly virus may sound counterproductive, but the fact is, we lack sufficient research on the pandemic – it’s for the greater good, if we see symptoms of participants improve during the trial, then the vaccine can be approved and distributed to the public, thus saving millions of lives. Of course, there’ll always be a risk, but the participants already know that.’