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Thousands Volunteer To Be Infected With Coronavirus To Possibly Speed Up Vaccine

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) - Nearly 29,000 people have signed up to be willingly infected with the coronavirus. It's an effort to speed up the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.

A graduate student at the University of Colorado Boulder is one of those offering to be part of a possible human challenge trial.

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"Potentially this is one of the most important things I might ever do in my life," Gavriel Kleinwaks told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

Gavriel is 23, a graduate student in mechanical engineering at CU Boulder. She is willing to donate her health.

"I will willingly be exposed to COVID-19," she said.

Gavriel is one of nearly 29,000 people from 102 countries who have volunteered with the group 1Day Sooner to be part of a possible COVID-19 vaccine challenge trial.

Instead of vaccinating thousands of people then waiting months to see if they catch the virus, scientists would purposely infect vaccinated volunteers, shaving a month or more off the process.

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"For every day sooner that the vaccine is developed you save roughly 7,000 lives," said Gavriel.

But others wonder if it's ethical to infect people with a potentially lethal virus with no reliable treatment. And Dr. Matthew DeCamp at UCHealth says, as coronavirus transmission rates decline, a challenge trial is a harder sell.

"It's harder to justify adding on risk and exposing people to additional risk," said DeCamp, internal medicine doctor at UCHealth and associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Colorado.

Gavriel is well aware of the COVID-19 dangers for young people, including stroke and organ damage, but if needed, she says she would protect others.

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"I'm Jewish and Judaism teaches for somebody who saves a life, it's as if they saved an entire world," she said.

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