Don’t Touch Your Face

Don’t Touch Your Face: Would You Volunteer to be Infected With the Coronavirus?


On this week’s podcast: Human challenge trials could speed up vaccine development, but at what cost?

Human challenge trials in which volunteers are infected with the coronavirus could speed up the development of a vaccine. Such trials have been used in the development of malaria, typhoid, and flu vaccines, but unlike for those diseases, there is no effective treatment for COVID-19. 

Last Wednesday, the World Health Organization issued guidance stating that well-designed challenge trials could speed up vaccine development, provided certain criteria were met. But what are the risks that challenge trial volunteers could face? And how is that individual risk weighed against the greater good of developing a vaccine?

On this week’s episode, Don’t Touch Your Face hosts Amy Mackinnon and James Palmer are joined by Nir Eyal, the director of Rutgers University’s Center for Population-Level Bioethics, and Josh Morrison, a co-founder of 1 Day Sooner, a challenge trial advocacy group that has gathered the names of over 15,000 people who want to volunteer to take part in challenge trials. 

Further reading.

Trump Needs a Bioethics Commission to Guide the Coronavirus Response,” National Review

Hundreds of people volunteer to be infected with coronavirus,” Nature 

Human Challenge Studies to Accelerate Coronavirus Vaccine Licensure,” the Journal of Infectious Diseases


About Don’t Touch Your Face:  On the last day of 2019, China reported an unusual outbreak in Wuhan, a port city with a population of 11 million. Within two months, the disease would spread to almost every continent on the globe and kill thousands of people. From Foreign Policy, a podcast about the extent of the COVID-19 contagion, the threat it poses, and what countries are doing to contain it. Join FP’s James Palmer and Amy Mackinnon as they track the spread of the virus and explore what it means for people’s everyday lives. Have a coronavirus question for us to explore? Email it to  See All Episodes

More Don’t Touch Your Face episodes:

Don’t Touch Your Face: Corona and the Killer App

On this week's episode: How technology has made our pandemic lives better—and worse.

Don’t Touch Your Face: Generation Coronavirus

On this week’s episode: The pandemic will shape young people for decades to come.

Don’t Touch Your Face: Sorry, Nature Isn’t Returning

On this week’s episode: Why the environmental benefits of the lockdown are fleeting at best.

Other Foreign Policy podcasts:

I Spy

I Spy

Spies don’t talk—it’s the cardinal rule of the business. But here at Foreign Policy, we get them to open up. On I Spy, we hear from the operations people: the spies who steal secrets, who kill adversaries, who turn agents into double agents. Each episode features one spy telling the story of one operation.



First Person

Each week, one guest whose experience illuminates something timely and important about our world.