Ottawa, Ontario – Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Marcus Powlowski presented in the House of Commons today a petition calling on the Government of Canada to publicly announce a plan for COVID-19 human challenge trials. The petition, which was the brainchild of the challenge trials advocacy group 1Day Sooner, received 543 signatures from across Canada, showcasing the support there is for the use of human challenge trials in the race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19.
Upon presenting the petition, MP Powlowski states, “I am very proud of the work One Day Sooner has done advocating for the use of human challenge trials, not just in Canada, but around the world. They understand how important it is that we obtain a COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible for the preservation of human life and the prevention of further economic devastation during this pandemic. Young people from across Canada are ready to step-up to serve their country in our war against COVID-19, and I would hope that Canada’s leaders are willing to heed their call.”
1Day Sooner representative Alexandre Rodgers, author of the petition, says, “We are very grateful for the support shown by MP Powlowski on this important issue. With COVID-19 sweeping across the world and causing the deaths of thousands per day, it is essential we use human challenge trials to speed vaccine testing, especially for poor countries that maybe outbid for the first vaccines. Participating in a human challenge trial poses less risk to young healthy people than living kidney donations, a commonly accepted medical procedure. We hope that Canadian researchers embrace the altruism of over 1700 Canadians who have already volunteered for these trials.”
Background on Petition
- The petition was opened for signatures on September 18th, 2020 and closed for signatures on October 18th, 2020.
- The petition was written by the organization 1Day Sooner. As petitions must be sponsored by an MP before being presented in the House of Commons, MP Powlowski acted as the sponsor.
- The petition received 543 signatures.
- The wording of the petition is as follows:
Petition to the Government of Canada
- We need multiple vaccines to meet global demand, yet we know little about which of the 160 or more vaccines in production actually work;
- COVID-19 human challenge trials would quickly narrow the field of promising vaccines and answer essential biological questions about COVID-19, potentially saving tens of thousands of lives;
- Human challenge trials have been indispensable to our understanding of other infectious diseases, like malaria, cholera, and influenza, and would similarly offer an unprecedented level of insight into COVID-19;
- Over 1,600 Canadians have already volunteered to take part in a COVID-19 human challenge trial;
- The risk to young healthy volunteers is on par with other acts of public service, such as living kidney donation; and
- Thousands of people are dying every day from COVID-19, and we urgently need to help those who are most vulnerable with accelerated vaccine development.
We, the undersigned, citizens of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to publicly announce a plan for COVID-19 human challenge trials.
Background on Human Challenge Trials (from Powlowski Op-Ed: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2020/08/24/it-is-worth-the-risk-to-accelerate-covid-19-vaccine-testing.html)
- A challenge trial involves the administration of a vaccine that has passed Phase 1 and 2 safety trials to young and healthy volunteers, who are then deliberately exposed to the disease in order to see if they get sick. This is different from conventional Phase 3 trials during which a large number of people are vaccinated and then allowed to go about their normal lives while being monitored over time to determine if they become infected with the disease through ordinary practices.
- In contrast to a regular Phase 3 trial, a challenge trial is faster and allows for a smaller number of volunteers, as volunteers will be reliably exposed to the disease. This also means that there is no risk of a trial failing due to the epidemic waning in a locality where the trial is being conducted. Less recruitment, less waiting and less uncertainty all mean that challenge trials take less time.
- By taking precautions, such as limiting participants to healthy young 18-25 year-olds without underlying conditions, (as in this population COVID-19 is about as dangerous as common influenza), using small, standardized doses of the virus in incremental fashion to limit the amount of illness a volunteer may experience, and housing volunteers in containment centres during the trial, the risk to volunteers can be reduced to minimal levels.
- The World Health Organization has also released standards for how challenge trials can be safely and ethically conducted.
- The use of a challenge trial for the development of a COVID-19 vaccine has recently been approved for use at the University of Oxford