Montrealers are asked to volunteer for vaccine testing, and many sign up

A McGill research centre is searching for Montrealers willing to act as test subjects for COVID-19 vaccines, and the city hasn’t let them down.

“So far at least, the response... suggests that people are very keen to participate and do their part in developing these vaccines,” said Dr. Brian Ward, the co-director of the McGill Vaccine Study Centre.

The centre has been looking for healthy people who will be ready to get test vaccines when the centre is ready to start administering them. Given the race to develop COVID vaccines, the centre’s staff wants to find and screen volunteers before a vaccine is ready for testing, to save time later.

Right now they’re looking for people between 18 and 55, in good health, with no chronic illnesses or ongoing medications. Smokers and vapers need not apply at the moment.

The reason they want people in such good health is that taking an in-development vaccine isn’t without risk.

“You don't know if your vaccine is going to work, and you don’t know if your vaccine is going to make things worse if somebody is subsequently exposed to the real coronavirus,” Ward said in an interview with CTV News.

Young, healthy people can generally stand “a slight worsening in the disease,” he said. But for more vulnerable people, “the last thing you wnt to do is give them a vaccine that actually causes the disease to be worse than it would otherwise be.”

Despite the uncertainty, people have responded enthusiastically so far, Ward said. The centre has been emailing out requests, but interested people are also invited to submit their contact information through the centre’s website.

As for the question everyone is asking—how far off is a vaccine?—Ward said that with the unprecedented speed of research, he expects “emergency use” of the first vaccines to happen this November or December, for some of the most vulnerable people.

Then, “quite rapidly,” the available will likely expand over the following six months.

Usually, developing a vaccine takes years.

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