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Congressman Bill Foster And Prominent Scientists Hold Congressional Briefing On The Urgent Need To Prepare For Covid-19 Human Challenge Trials

July 31, 2020 Coronavirus (Covid-19) No Comments Email Email

On Tuesday, July 28th, U.S. Representative Bill Foster (D-IL 11th District) spoke to staffers from 14 congressional offices about the exigent need for the National Institutes of Health to prepare for COVID-19 human challenge trials, studies in which healthy volunteers would be deliberately exposed to the coronavirus to quickly test vaccine candidates and learn more about people’s immune response to COVID-19.

Congressman Foster was joined by a panel of prominent scientists including Marc Lipsitch, Professor of Epidemiology at Harvard University; Stanley Plotkin; Emeritus Professor of the University of Pennsylvania and creator of the rubella vaccine; Sir Richard Roberts, 1993 Nobel Laureate in Medicine and Chief Scientific Officer at New England Biolabs; and Nir Eyal, Professor of Bioethics at Rutgers University.

On April 20th, Congressman Foster co-authored a letter to the Food and Drug Administration urging preparation for COVID-19 human challenge trials, a letter which Foster says has “stood the test of time.” Foster said in yesterday’s briefing that “our job is not going to be to find the first vaccine, but the best vaccine,” and that he may learn later this week about the NIH’s plans to “hopefully move forward with human challenge trials.”

The panelists emphasized how data gleaned from a COVID-19 human challenge trial can be used to more quickly determine the most promising vaccine candidates, discover the extent to which antibodies confer immunity, and illuminate the processes of early-stage COVID-19 infection. Professor Stanley Plotkin noted that with conventional Phase III trials, these data “will take longer [to identify] … and the information may not be as precise as it would be by human challenges.”

Prominent signatories from 1Day Sooner’s open letter to Dr. Francis Collins also joined a press conference with journalists from Bloomberg, CBS, NBC, BBC, CNN, and National Geographic to discuss their support of COVID-19 human challenge trial preparation. Karla Holloway, Professor of English at Duke University, said in the press conference, “I am concerned that the lack of [health] literacy and the politicization of this moment does not interfere with a person’s autonomy and ability to sign on to this kind of trial.”

Video from the congressional briefing can be found here, and video from the press conference can be found here (password: 9!1PZT%.)

1Day Sooner is an organization that advocates on behalf of COVID-19 challenge trial volunteers.

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