Hindsight, however, is a wonderful thing. Covid-19 was circulating halfway around the world before China even took hold of it. Large-scale testing would have seriously affected transmission, yes, but since people without symptoms also spread it, PCR testing was not safe once Covid-19 was deep in the community. The summer 2020 lull offered opportunities to improve contact tracing, of course, although this was ultimately cracked down by politicians urging us to normalize life.
“Lessons”, however, are surely more valuable if they have structural implications, rather than simply pointing out in retrospect when decisions turned out to be wrong.
One unspoken lesson we could learn is the value of “human challenge trials” for vaccines, where volunteers are paid to be exposed to viruses under controlled conditions. Moderna’s vaccine only took two days to be produced in January 2020. Months later were spent navigating trial protocols in various countries, despite the 1 Day Sooner organization recruiting thousands of potential volunteers for provocation trials around the world, with little publicity.
The challenge trials could have accelerated evaluations of vaccine effectiveness, accelerated approval, production and end of the pandemic. By giving us data faster, it would have saved thousands of lives and around £ 3.6bn per week by boosting economic activity in the UK once the pandemic is over. As Jessica Flannigan writes in a cover essay for the Cato Institute, “Every day of bureaucratic delay is a day when public servants contribute to the invisible graveyard of people whose deaths could have been prevented with faster access to vaccines. . “
Recently, UK officials have teamed up with researchers to start challenge trials for other Covid-19 vaccines and aim to use them to answer further questions about doses or combinations. But in the high-stakes months of the past year, supposedly ethical concerns have prevailed. It has been viewed as inherently wrong to use health resources to deliberately infect someone, as you risk making them sick and dying without corrective treatment. Of course, the “cost” of such a paternalistic precaution was to accept thousands more deaths as the virus spread through a largely unprotected community.
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This notice was published: 2021-03-25 16:00:00