Pasadena Man Volunteers to be Injected with COVID-19 to Help Speed Vaccine

Rebekah Sager
July 06, 2020 - 5:59 am
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    A 23-year-old Pasadena man has volunteered to help others by allowing himself to be injected with COVID-19, in the hopes of speeding up a vaccine for the virus. 

    Sunash Sharma tells the OC Register that he hasn't told his parents yet about his decision to enter the coronavirus trial. 

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    Sharma works as a software engineer. He signed up for the “human challenge trial” as a volunteer at 1daysooner.org.

    “I was stricken by the very core idea: We can put ourselves on the line, at risk, to help countless other people by getting a COVID vaccine sooner,” Sharma tells the OC Register.

    “That really spoke to me. A lot of people have been talking about ‘the end of human compassion’ lately, and I saw that this would be a chance for me and thousands of other volunteers to show that humanity is better than we think.”

    As the coronavirus pandemic (particularly in the U.S.) continues to surge, scientists are rushing to find a vaccine to stop it in its tracks. And there needs to be human trials to test efficacy. 

    “There’s no doubt it’s dangerous. Even a young person can get critically ill,” Otto Yang, an infectious diseases expert at UCLA’s Geffen School of Medicine tells the OC Register. “I don’t know what the right answer is."

    Protesters against Africa’s first COVID-19 vaccine trial burned their face masks in demonstrations as experts note a worrying level of resistance and misinformation around testing on the continent.

    Anti-vaccine sentiment in Africa is “the worst I’ve ever seen,” the CEO of the GAVI vaccine alliance, Seth Berkley, told an African Union vaccine conference last week.

    Who would be the first to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

    Probably people in the country where the first effective vaccine is developed.

    About a dozen different vaccines are in various stages of testing worldwide, including in Britain, China and the U.S. This week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said he is cautiously optimistic there will be a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year or early 2021.

    “These volunteers know that Covid-19 can cause suffering and even death, yet they are stepping forward, willing to risk their lives,” Michael Rosenblatt, chief medical officer of Flagship Pioneering, former chief medical officer at Merck and former dean of Tufts University School of Medicine, wrote in Slate.

    Several wealthy countries have already ordered millions of doses of those experimental vaccines.

    “There’s always going to be a risk with any medical procedure,” Sharma said. “But I’m more able to weather this than a lot of people. I’d rather it be me than someone else," Sharma says.