London Lab Offers People $4,500 to Get Voluntarily Infected with Coronavirus

As part of a global effort to find a vaccine for the Covid-19 coronavirus, pharmaceutical companies are offering thousands of dollars to people willing to voluntarily get infected with a form of the virus and spend two weeks in isolation.

Being the first to come up with an effective vaccine for Covid-19 would undoubtedly prove very profitable for any pharmaceutical company, and many are spending big money to increase their chances of success. For example, several companies as well as public sector organizations have reportedly begun offering volunteers up to $4,500 to get infected with a form of the highly-contagious coronavirus to aid the search for a vaccine. It’s a tempting offer, especially for young, healthy and cash-strapped individuals, but there is a catch – they will be banned from contact with the outside world for at least two weeks.

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In the UK, a company called Hvivo runs a quarantine unit in a laboratory in east London where volunteers will be observed over a two week period. The Times reports that up to 24 people at a time will be paid to be infected with two strains of the coronavirus (0C43 and 229E), both of which can cause severe respiratory symptoms.

“Drugs companies can get a very good idea within a few months of starting a vaccine study whether it’s working or not, using such a small sample of people,” said Andrew Catchpole, Hvivo’s chief scientist.

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For 14 days the quarantined volunteers will be monitored by doctors and nurses in protective gear, who will be their only human contact over that period. Swabs and dirty tissues will also be collected in order to measure the viral load. According to Professor John Oxford, an expert in virology at the Queen Mary University of London, the infected volunteers will likely experience mild symptoms of a cough or cold.

This sort of practice isn’t new. In fact just last year laboratories in the United States were paying people $3,300 to volunteer to become infected with the influenza virus. However, Covid-19 is a completely new virus and the risks for those infected are considerably higher.