It's hard to fathom why anyone would volunteer to be deliberately exposed to the novel coronavirus. But according to organization 1Day Sooner, 1,500 Canadians have signed up to do just that — and they have a really good reason.
It's part of a push for "human challenge trials," which could accelerate the testing of a COVID-19 vaccine, said a statement by 1Day Sooner, an advocacy group for human challenge trial volunteers.
In typical clinical trials for new vaccines, volunteers are "vaccinated and then allowed to go about their normal lives while being monitored over time," explained the writers of a Toronto Star op-ed.
In human challenge trials, volunteers are vaccinated and then intentionally "exposed to the disease in order to see if they get sick."
The op-ed, which urges the government to green-light human challenge trials, was signed by "nearly a dozen" members of parliament and infectious disease specialists.
Alexandre Rodgers, a 27-year-old from Sherbrooke, Quebec, is one of the 1,000+ volunteers willing to come in close contact with COVID-19 on purpose.
He told MTL Blog it's something he's not only willing to do but that he hopes to do.
"I see people around me who are very heavily impacted. People are losing loved ones, lives are being lost," he said. "So I feel this sense of urgency to try to get the pandemic resolved as fast as possible."
Rodgers said his background studying health sciences at cégep and getting his bachelor's of applied psychology taught him the value of human challenge trials.
Asked if he'd be afraid to catch the potentially deadly virus, he said no.
"With the research that's come out in terms of the younger, healthy category you don't have as many adverse risks and the risk of death is very very low. I'll hedge my bets," he said.
"I'd be willing to take on the risk it would pose to myself for the good that I see it bringing other individuals who are more in need."
He also pointed out that these trials would be regulated by the government and "done in as safe a manner as possible."
Even so, he cautioned that it's not a decision anyone should take lightly.
"There is a risk," he said. "Other people looking to sign up should make sure they fully understand the process."