Is promoting a rapid deployment of “herd immunity” the key to solving the Covid-19 pandemic? One prominent e-commerce businessman and philanthropist thinks so, and has pledged as much as $5 million to fund a study designed to test its effectiveness, according to a source speaking to TicketNews on the condition of anonymity.
In a proposal shared with several research universities, the outlined study involves a 28-day process with 500 volunteers, plus funding for a facility to house them, as well as doctors and nursing staff.
The study proposes to select a group of 500 healthy individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 and exposing them to the novel coronavirus in controlled conditions in hopes that the group would emerge mostly – if not entirely – unharmed. It cites current CDC estimates for that age group as being a death rate of 0.1% (one in 1,000 cases) with fewer than 50 hospitalizations and no more than eight ICU cases. And, it posits, the possibility for those numbers to be far fewer based on the assumption that there may be a far greater number of cases in affected areas today that are uncounted among the statistical base.
By eliminating from the study anyone with a pre-existing condition, it is hoped that its results would show the relative safety in the most healthy individuals being exposed to coronavirus and letting it run its course.
“The hope is that a study of this nature would involve no loss of life at all,” organizers told TicketNews. “But the reality is that the CDC has done tests of this nature before. In December of 2019, the CDC approved funding to several research institutions that went about infecting healthy individuals with the regular seasonal influenza virus. (https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/infectious-diseases-clinical-research-consortium-awards-announced.)
Volunteers would be compensated with $1,000 up front, plus $1,000 per month for an additional five months following the infection running its course. Applicants would be pre-screened to remove any individuals with potentially unknown health complications, as well as testing for antibodies related to a previously unknown Covid-19 exposure. Therefore, a side benefit of this study would be a window into the potential level of herd immunity that already exists in the population, given the belief that many individuals may have already had the virus run its course in some way, yet displayed no symptoms.
“Volunteers would be able to control their own destiny, and face this virus in controlled conditions at peak physical condition,” the white paper posits. “Once individuals have overcome the exposure and are released from the controlled facility, they would also be highly desirable for any job that deals with members of the public while this epidemic continues.”
“We cannot sustain our society with people constantly going into quarantine,” it continues. “This study offers a potential path to shortening the devastating impact this novel coronavirus is having across the globe, while minimizing risk to its participants.”
Thus far, research universities approached to consider conducting the study have not yet shown great interest – generally citing the strong possibility that the CDC’s internal review board would not approve such a potentially high-risk study, whether or not the participants were of the lowest-risk group. “Under normal circumstances, we would agree with the CDC IRB, but these are not normal circumstances,” the businessman says. “It is unquestionable that this study will create a baseline for testing and herd immunity that would save lives.”
With new guidelines from the federal government extending social distancing recommendations through April 30 and unemployment numbers reaching unprecedented heights in the wake of the spreading pandemic, the white paper also posited the potential for those in the lowest-risk groups chafing under what could be long-term lockdowns designed to save those with far greater risk of serious complications from Covid-19.
“Once the Gen Z and Gen X population find out how safe they are compared to the population, we fear there could be societal revolt against the harsh quarantine,” study organizers said. “Some might reject continued self-quarantine or even worse they will infect themselves in less than ideal conditions.
TicketNews has contacted health officials at several universities and organizations for their thoughts on the proposed study. We will provide updates if any responses are received.
The proposed study is detailed below:
Controlled Covid-19 Virus Study – AKA “Limited Herd Immunity”
The plan is to infect 500 members of the population with no know preexisting conditions in the age group of 18-25 with the corona virus to measure attributes of the virus. According to The CDCC https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6912e2.htm the death rate on individuals in the age group of birth to the age of 44 years old is .1% . China released similar statistics.
According to these statistics taking a random sample of individuals in this age group would project out to being 1 death for the 1000 person study at a worse case scenario. However filtering out the preexisting conditions and lowering the maximum age would greatly reduce that Number.
Each patient would be required to waive their right to redress and exempt the study group from adherence to HIPAA laws.
If the outcome of this test is successful in terms of survival rate, lowering of the transmission rate from immune creates buffers in society lowering the R0, infecting participants before the develop preexisting conditions (as an example a temporary infection at the same time of the corona virus may lower the bodies immune system producing a worse result if this target sample naturally contracts Covid-19.
Next, these immune participants can be extremely valuable to society if they are monetarily rewards for being employed in positions of unskilled or skilled labor where the transmission is more likely to occur.
According to the CDC, a flu vaccine going through an expedited course will take at least 12 months to confirm as safe. If Covid-19 gets worse or follows a seasonal flu pattern, governments may be forced to take a position asking citizens to take an unproven vaccine with unknown complications rather than go through this process.
If this test preforms better than expected, it would possibly act as a guide towards developing a herd immunity strategy.
As information goes out to the public and some segments of the population realize that the effects of Covid-19 are minimal to them, the likelihood of social unrest increases.
Select 500 of the target population and house them in a facility and restrict their movement. Each applicant will get $1,000 to start, with monthly $1,000 stipends for the following five months.
Applicants would be pre-screened via blood test and other diagnostics if necessary to remove from the target population those with preexisting conditions.
Give each target member two serological tests using different methodologies to reduce and remove participants who have already been exposed and have antibodies (this would double as the first piece of deliverable statistical information – such a controlled test would allow for some conclusions to be drawn as to the percentage of general population already exposed to Covid-19 and possessing antibodies against future reinfection.)
Once selected, the participants with be exposed to the virus and give up to ten different tests a day to monitor both their time to shed and the effectiveness of the test. One of the outcomes may be a cheaper easer test that is first given that does give false positives but very low false negative to distribute to the general population.
Record every measurement and test.
Each member should be subject to at least five serological tests daily to measure the building of antibodies.
Reporting of the daily data is essential in giving communication to the rest of the medical community to show the results in real time.
All data on every patient and measurements should be updated daily and free online for the results to be viewable by the public
Outcomes for this target group to be determined at the end of the study are:
- Earliest, latest, mean and average time till each different test appear positive (assuming there is no natural immunity in anyone)
- Earliest, latest, mean, average time till not shedding
- Earliest, mean average time, until antibodies are produced and the virus is considered cured and no infections are possible.
- Efficiency and scalability of each different type of test for both detection of an active infection and a serological test
- Data that can project the cost and effects of creating a subset of the population that can be infected
- Room to accommodate 500 people on double occupancy
- Volunteer nurses and doctors who are to become participants if they are infected
- At least 10 doctors and 25 Nurses (a subset of participants may be able to serve this purpose)
- All participants will be in charge of their own house keeping
- A lab that will be able to process 500 tests a day of both infections and serological tests
- Study director to set guidelines
- Statistical director to compile statistics
- Database architect- designer – programmer to design, enter and propagate the data.
Once a facility is secured, study director and testing available this can proceed. It is not necessary to start all 500 on the same day or week. it is only necessary to keep them isolated from the
infected patients until shedding occurs. Once it is decided to do a weeks’ time should be sufficient.