This study shows how difficult it will be to find Covid-19 vaccine volunteers

Right about now, there may not be a more eagerly awaited announcement than a legitimate vaccine for Covid-19. Unfortunately, these things don’t happen overnight, and the earliest estimates have a new vaccine becoming widely available in about a year.

At this point we would all benefit from a coronavirus vaccine, but who among us is willing to participate in a test trial for a potential cure? It’s a noble deed, but also a scary thought. Now, a new study from the University of York is illustrating just how difficult a task it can be to find willing volunteers for vaccine and medication trials. 

The research came to one, overarching conclusion: people are afraid of participating in these tests, and it’s that fear that causes many trials to fail in achieving an adequate number of volunteers. 

These findings just go to show the enormous task facing scientists as they work tirelessly to perfect a Covid-19 vaccine, and the selflessness of the participants who already have, and will, come forward and put themselves at risk for the greater good. 

The first U.S. test trial for a coronavirus vaccine just went underway, but there will assuredly be many more trials before a vaccine is approved. More volunteers will be needed.

In the United Kingdom, up to two-thirds of medical trials fail to recruit their targeted number of volunteers. Most study participants said they avoid taking part in medical trials due to fears about the new treatment and any possible side effects.

In all, over 400 prior studies that had investigated why people opt out of health and medical trials were analyzed for this project. 

Besides concerns about possible side effects, many people also said they worry about compromising their privacy and confidentiality by participating in a medicinal trial. Additionally, various black and minority ethnic (BAME) patients told researchers that they just generally distrust medical professionals, and wouldn’t join a trial for that reason.

“Clinical trials are an essential part of developing new medicines and improving healthcare, but recruiting patients to take part is one of the biggest challenges researchers face,” comments lead study author Dr. Peter Knapp, from the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York and the Hull York Medical School, in a press release. “Our review highlights how people are held back from taking part in research by their fears surrounding losing control of the treatments they receive and worries about possible side effects.”

“Lack of trust was also identified as a common barrier for minority ethic patients around the world – perhaps a legacy of major historical violations of ethical standards in cases like the Tuskegee syphilis experiment,” he adds, citing a particularly dark corner of US medical history.

Still, countless vaccines and medications are eventually approved via successful trials, so some people must be willing to volunteer. Among willing participants, researchers found that most were motivated by a desire to help others. Other factors included the possibility of improving their health and an inherent trust in the doctors involved.

These findings may not be particularly shocking, but they are especially poignant given the ongoing Covid-19 situation. We all want a vaccine sooner rather than later, but it’s important to remember the sacrifices and risks that trial participants will be putting themselves through for the world’s benefit. 

We live in a time of superhero worship. From Spiderman to The Joker everyone has their comic book character of choice these days, but if you’re searching for a real-life hero look no further than the selfless individuals volunteering for Covid-19 vaccine trials.

The full study can be found here, published in Trials.