Thunder Bay

Powlowski calls on federal government to launch human challenge trials for COVID-19 vaccine

The MP for Thunder Bay-Rainy River is calling on the federal government to begin human challenge trials for potential COVID-19 vaccines.

Trials could speed up vaccine development, Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP says

Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Marcus Powlowski is calling on the federal government to begin human challenge trials to help speed up the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. (U.S. National Institutes of Health/The Canadian Press)

The MP for Thunder Bay-Rainy River is calling on the federal government to begin human challenge trials for potential COVID-19 vaccines.

Marcus Powlowski said the process would involve injecting volunteers with an in-development COVID-19 vaccine, which has passed safety trials. The volunteers would then be exposed to COVID-19 to see if a particular vaccine works.

"This has been done quite a bit historically in the development of other vaccines," Powlowski said. "It only makes sense with [COVID-19] because the group of people you would do the testing on are young people, aged about 18 to 25."

 "In that age group, the mortality rate for [COVID-19] is estimated to be somewhere between one in 20,000 to one in 40,000 people, which is actually, I think, less than common influenza."

The process would be much faster than a regular phase three vaccine trial, Powlowski said, as it would require only 50 or so volunteers as opposed to a phase three trail that would involve thousands of people receiving a vaccine, and thousands more receiving a placebo.

"Then you let them carry out their daily lives, and over a long period of time, you see whether those in the vaccine group had less illness than those who didn't get the vaccine," he said. "This is potentially a way of significantly decreasing the amount of time taken to get a vaccine."

The matter of human challenge trials was raised in the House of Commons last week, when Powlowski presented a petition asking the government to publicly announce a plan for the trials.

The petition was circulated by the organization 1Day Sooner, and garnered 543 signatures between Sept. 18, 2020, and Oct. 18 2020; Powlowski sponsored the petition's presentation to the House.

No decision on moving forward with human challenge trials has been made, Powlowski said.

"[The United Kingdom] recently approved doing challenge trails," he said. "It seems like Belgium is preparing to do them."

"I think other countries will follow suit."

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