Many people try to cure their own illnesses--like fever, stomach, and muscle pains -- following home remedies, but it won't be helpful in case of deadly diseases like COVID-19. Now, during this pandemic, US scientists requested people to "stop injecting yourselves with homebrewed COVID-19 vaccines."
University of Illinois law professor Jacob Sherkow urged citizen scientists experimenting with inoculating against the novel Coronavirus. In a statement he said,"We are all sympathetic to the notion that people want to inoculate themselves against the virus," but people should understand that "every home remedy is not necessarily going to help, and some may very well be fatal."
As per a newly published paper in the journal Science, co-written by Sherkow, the practice of self-experimentation with do-it-yourself medical innovations is fraught with important legal, ethical, and public health issues.
Apart from the Coronavirus vaccines developed by pharmaceutical companies and university scientists, a group of researchers cobbled together their own grey-market COVID-19 vaccine and the team led by famed Harvard geneticist George Church have already started injecting themselves with their experimental inoculation. They also provided the vaccine to their friends and family.
But George Siber, the former head of vaccines at Wyeth, a Pennsylvania-based pharmaceutical company, told MIT Tech that "it's not the best idea — especially in this case, you could make things worse. You really need to know what you are doing here."
In April, Farhad Ghatan, the mayor of an island town in the Pacific Northwest invited a microbiologist friend to vaccinate him. During their conversation on a Facebook page Johnny Stine, who runs North Coast Biologics, a Seattle biotech company wrote, "Should I pop up and get your vaccine started?" and added that "Don't worry — I'm immune — I have boosted myself five times with my vaccine." After a few follow up questions, Ghatan wrote, "Sounds good."
After the local residents raised their concerns and took it to a variety of law enforcement and regulatory agencies, in June Washington attorney general had filed a suit against a fringe biotech firm for charging $400 per shot for an unproven vaccine, reported the New York Times.
Not a Right Path to Follow
The University of Illinois professor Sherkow said that people should be aware that since they are experimenting on their own body, it does not make it legal without approval.
"Some self-experimentation can qualify as human subjects research that is required to undergo ethics review, by law or institutional policy. Just because it is self-experimentation doesn't give you carte blanche," he added.
He also praised the large scale, carefully organized clinical trials that determine the safety of an effective vaccine or new drug, while noting that the homebrewed alternatives are unlikely to ensure safety and effectiveness.
In the statement, he also said that people are currently living in an age of vaccine misinformation. According to him, it is not just a matter of figuring out whether something is effective but about "the gross toxicity of the treatment, and if it's been manufactured in such a way so that it's not going to harm people."
Sherkow also warned that the biohackers creating and self-administering unapproved and unproven vaccines run the risk of not only endangering public health but also undermining public trust in all vaccines. He said, "A homemade COVID-19 vaccine is perhaps more dangerous than people would like to believe."