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College Student Volunteers For Controversial 'Human Challenge' Trial For COVID-19 Vaccine

BOSTON (CBS) -- Vivian Wilt is one of 30,000 people volunteering to test a coronavirus vaccine in a human challenge trial. The concept is controversial because it deliberately infects people with coronavirus, but one organization says it will lead to a cure faster than traditional vaccine development.

Wilt, a 23-year-old Northeastern University student, wants to be a doctor to help people. As for her own health, she told WBZ-TV she's not afraid of getting sick because the odds of anyone in her demographic dying is in her favor.

She signed up with 1Day Sooner, an advocacy group for COVID-19 human challenge trials. If they go forward, participants would be given one of the vaccines being studied or a placebo then exposed to live coronavirus. The group said the data gathered could help save lives by finding the right vaccine faster.

Vivian Wilt
Vivian Wilt (WBZ-TV)

But not everyone agrees.

Boston University medical ethics professor George Annas said without a viable cure or a treatment, the risk is just too high and there is no scientific evidence that it would save time in producing a vaccine.

"The biggest concern is what if it doesn't work and the person gets COVID, anything could happen including death," Annas said.

Annas says if any of the participants got sick and died of COVID-19 it could set the vaccine back months if not years.

"The cost benefit analysis for me participating in a trial it would be totally worth it no matter what the outcome," Wilt said. "Participating would help change the lives of people in every corner of the globe."

Any COVID-19 human challenge trials would likely start in the United Kingdom. In the United States, the FDA must approve all human trials.

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