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Novelist urges volunteers to be infected with coronavirus

(33 Posts)
GagaJo Thu 02-Apr-20 20:50:54

Fit and healthy volunteers should be deliberately infected with Covid-19 so they can help fight the pandemic after their recovery, the novelist and NHS psychotherapist Salley Vickers has proposed.

Vickers, 70, suggested that a “controlled policy” of exposing volunteers to the virus under strict conditions might appeal to the “famously off-the-wall thinking” of Boris Johnson’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings. “I am surely not alone in hoping to get Covid-19 in order to be granted the immunity to return to the world and lend a hand,” she writes in a letter to the Guardian.

She and others would “then be in a unique position to offer up ourselves for research, to provide antibodies, to ameliorate the disease and, finally, join those valiantly fighting to help”.

The suggestion comes amid increasing debate around the idea of “immunity passports” for key workers and others who have had the disease and who could then be fast-tracked back into the workforce.

Although some doubts remain, and the area is the focus of continuing research, UK government experts have said that those who have had the virus once will develop some immunity and it is rare to get an infectious disease twice.

Vickers adds in her letter: “As a former psychotherapist who worked in the NHS, and especially with those with a mortal condition or whose loved ones had sadly died, I feel my services would currently be more worthwhile both to myself and others in that capacity than just dallying at home not getting on with writing my next novel.”

She told the Guardian that she expected people would question the idea on the basis of her age, but said that objective medical evidence such as her low cholesterol and good level of fitness meant she had a much younger physiological age. She said she was already shopping for vulnerable people in her village who were significantly younger.

Vickers is not the first public figure to talk about a policy of deliberate infection. Although in a different context, a senior Formula One chief revealed last month that he suggested the team’s drivers should try to become infected with coronavirus as it is the “ideal time”, as the season is on hold.

Helmut Marko, Red Bull’s head of driver development, said: “We have four Formula One drivers and eight or 10 juniors. The idea was to organise a camp where we could bridge this mentally and physically somewhat dead time and that would be the ideal time for the infection to come.”

Cummings, who has been self-isolating after reportedly developing coronavirus-type symptoms, has been keeping a low profile. Downing Street has rejected as “a highly defamatory fabrication” a claim that he initially argued against strict measures to contain coronavirus.

A report in the Sunday Times claimed that at one private event at the end of February, Cummings outlined the government’s strategy at the time in a way that was summarised by some present as “herd immunity, protect the economy, and if that means some pensioners die, too bad”.

M0nica Thu 02-Apr-20 21:14:02

I have just been listening to a radio programme where scientists were being interviewed about how research into a vaccine was being developed. One scientist said they hoped to get a potential vaccine to human testing level by the end of the month.

Surely human testing requires volunteers and this is a standard part of the development of any drug or vaccine, so what is so dramatic about this appeal? It is just the application is different. Cannot help but feel that as an author an appeal like this will be very effective at boosting sales.

I always think that those who boast how fit they are for their age as a reason for doing things that people their age have been told not to do are offering hostages to fortune. As they say pride goes before a fall.

Greeneyedgirl Thu 02-Apr-20 21:28:00

Call me stupid but a very risky idea IMO.

A percentage of those who become infected will need hospitalisation, however fit they are beforehand, and younger people, admittedly rarely, are dying too.

The reason the 'herd immunity' policy was not followed was because of overwhelming health services.

How could the 'fit' but infected ones guarantee that they would not infect others who may become seriously ill, and also initiate spread to the wider community.

How is it possible to know at this early stage a) if immunity will be maintained, or b) mutation of the virus which may zap those previously infected again?

The only way for this idea to be successful is for a huge proportion of the population to have regular testing I think.

BradfordLass73 Thu 02-Apr-20 23:31:47

As multi-thousands of people of all ages and cultures have now recovered, I can't see that deliberately infecting anyone is of any use.... and far too risky.

Chestnut Thu 02-Apr-20 23:38:47

If this could be done in a controlled environment and with a very small dose then the body could cope and destroy the virus. What this small dose is I have no idea, but a controlled dose would surely act like a vaccine, giving the person a very mild illness but enough for them to produce antibodies and make them immune

GagaJo Fri 03-Apr-20 00:22:45

Yes, Chestnut. Were you the one writing about viral load yesterday?

Hetty58 Fri 03-Apr-20 00:49:16

I think Vickers is deluded to suggest that fitness would necessarily protect a 70 year old. The 'novelist' word jumped out at me. A publicity stunt, no doubt.

craftyone Fri 03-Apr-20 06:04:13

people have unrealistic expectations about immunity, about how long it lasts. It may only last for weeks or months. Stupid and irresponsible request

craftyone Fri 03-Apr-20 06:06:00

btw fit and healthy are two entirely different states, fit is no protection whatsoever

Greeneyedgirl Fri 03-Apr-20 09:49:44

Absolutely craftyone which is why I put fit in inverted commas.

EllanVannin Fri 03-Apr-20 10:04:52

" Fit and Healthy "people have died with the virus too ! ( rolls eyes )

Missfoodlove Fri 03-Apr-20 10:26:06

This virus is baffling the experts, we really know too little at this stage to risk such an experiment

Eglantine21 Fri 03-Apr-20 10:30:29

Hmm, after a couple of stunning books, she hasn’t really had much success.

Her latest book hasn’t sold well.

Chestnut Fri 03-Apr-20 10:45:54

Gagaj - yes, the viral load seems to make sense to me. Big dose makes you very poorly and a few half dead viruses on a door handle gives you a mild dose. It could explain why some people get it mildly and others so badly. They should explore that possibility because surely it could act like a vaccine.

Chestnut Fri 03-Apr-20 10:48:28

I am concerned about the length of time you are immune after having the illness. Not enough known about that. And how long are you shedding viruses once you've recovered? Not enough known about that either. Matt Hancock is back in action already so I hope he's not still infectious.

GagaJo Fri 03-Apr-20 11:04:32

Isn’t that what a vaccination is most of the time?

I also agree, 7 days doesn’t seem long to me for an extremely infectious and dangerous virus.

Shreddie Fri 03-Apr-20 11:10:10

Enough people will be affected without deliberately infecting anyone. Herd immunity? If it was such a good idea it would already be ongoing elsewhere. Go back to writing books and stop self promoting in this crisis.

Greeneyedgirl Fri 03-Apr-20 12:04:29

I agree Chestnut. I was thinking about Matt Hancock and whether they know enough about how long infection shedding lasts.

It doesn't seem that long since it was said that if you had no symptoms you were probably not infectious. Now it seems likely that many have had the virus and have been completely asymptomatic.

What a difference a couple of weeks makes.

Chestnut Fri 03-Apr-20 12:17:08

GagaJo - according to Wiki:
A vaccine is a biological preparation that provides active acquired immunity to a particular infectious disease. A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe, its toxins, or one of its surface proteins. The agent stimulates the body's immune system to recognize the agent as a threat, destroy it, and to further recognize and destroy any of the microorganisms associated with that agent that it may encounter in the future.
I suppose the only way that differs from a very small dose of live viruses is that a vaccine doesn't make you actually get the disease but the live virus does. Ultimately both should immunise you from further illness but I guess we don't know enough about corona.

Eglantine21 Fri 03-Apr-20 12:27:08

Hmm, the weak live vaccine was the theory behind the first polio vaccines which unfortunately resulted in a number of serious cases in children when the immune system failed to overcome the virus.

Polio doesnt pass directly from person to person so the failure didn’t have the same impact as using a live CV vaccine would. You would just be reintroducing an infectious disease into the community.

notanan2 Fri 03-Apr-20 12:52:27

We know nothing about what CV19 immunity means!

For some viruses, immunity only lasts 2 weeks!
For some viruses, immunity works well for most of the population and for other viruses only certain individuals retain any significant immunity.
For some viruses, exposure brings long term complications and relapses, and shedding happens during those relapses. Sometimes the flair ups are worse than the first infection.

CV19 immunity might not be worth the paper its written on. We dont know yet

Greeneyedgirl Fri 03-Apr-20 13:10:23

It may also be the case that quite a number of people will be left with a debilitating lung condition if they are infected by the actual virus, and not from immunisation with an attenuated type virus.

JenniferEccles Fri 03-Apr-20 13:39:07

It’s very probable that the herd immunity will occur naturally.

The official figures given each day of those infected are not of course the true numbers as only those hospitalised are counted.

Even with the limited number of people on here, quite a few have said they, a family member, friend, neighbour etc have probably had it.

Exposing people deliberately is a risky strategy but I have heard of Coronavirus parties being held.

Greeneyedgirl Fri 03-Apr-20 13:56:17

Really JenniferE? A 36yr old nurse with no underlying conditions has just died in this area from the virus, so I find that quite irresponsible.
I wonder if those attending such a party have any vulnerable contacts and are they invincible themselves?
Presumably they wouldn't care either if they end up in hospital and take up valuable ITU beds?

Chestnut Fri 03-Apr-20 14:21:59

A corona party sounds completely mental. No control whatsoever. People need their heads examined. The only way it could ever be done with a live virus would be under strict control and quarantine procedures, and with full medical support if required. But I have no idea if that's practical because we really need to know more about this virus and its behaviour before and after infection. I just pray they can produce a viable vaccine otherwise we are all going to be at risk for ever more.