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Volunteers will be paid £4,500 to be deliberately exposed to coronavirus

People will be paid around £4,500 in return for exposing themselves to the virus which causes Covid-19 for scientific research.

The ‘human challenge trial’ will take place in the UK and involve an initial 17 days in quarantine then follow-ups for a year.

Ninety volunteers, aged between 18 to 30, will be given the smallest amount of virus needed to cause infection via drops in the nose in a very small volume of fluid – about a fifth of a millilitre.

They will have to have no previous history or symptoms of Covid-19, no underlying health conditions and no known adverse risk factors for Covid-19 such as diabetes or being overweight.

The volunteers have not yet been selected – so if you are interested, you can give details here. 

Professor Sir Terence Stephenson, chairman of the Health Research Authority (HRA), defended paying the volunteers thousands of pounds to take part.

As soon as people start shedding virus from their nose or start developing symptoms of Covid-19, they will be given the antiviral drug Remdesvir.

But the intention isn’t to keep this drug in this study design because researchers believe the challenge infections can be very mild and won’t require the drug, and adding remdesivir potentially gives additional complications.

The study is being delivered through a partnership between the government’s Vaccines Taskforce, Imperial College London, the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust and clinical company hVIVO.

It was announced today, with Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng saying: ‘Researchers and scientists around the world have made incredible progress in understanding Covid-19 and developing critical vaccines to protect people.

‘While there has been very positive progress in vaccine development, we want 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.’

Interim Chair of the Vaccines Taskforce Clive Dix said: ‘We expect these studies to offer unique insights into how the virus works and help us understand which promising vaccines offer the best chance of preventing the infection.’

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