A new survey conducted by researchers from Georgetown, Rutgers, Johns Hopkins and 1Day Sooner shows that the vast majority of the nearly 2,000 potential COVID-19 volunteer subjects interviewed are motivated by a desire to help others and having typical responses to risks.This is a concern that volunteers for such attempts might do so due to economic vulnerability or underestimation of the risk.
The preprint study (not yet peer-reviewed) is the first analysis of the motivations and risk perceptions of volunteers for COVID-19 human challenge studies. According to Abigail Marsh, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Georgetown University, the results showed that when compared to a comparative sample of 999 controls, almost all volunteers in challenge studies reported altruistic motivations for volunteering. They also showed high levels of prior engagement with other forms of altruism, including blood donation, monetary donation to charity, and registration as living marrow donors and deceased organ donors.
Volunteers also scored higher personality traits, such as honesty and humility, which reflect a high regard for others in relation to self.
Research found no evidence that volunteering in the Challenge study was disproportionately linked to factors that could raise ethical concerns. Group differences in risk perception were generally small and did not suggest that volunteers were generally insensitive to factors affecting physical health or safety. Volunteering was also not associated with high levels of socio-economic vulnerability that could lead to volunteers being exploited. Volunteers reported higher levels of income and education compared to population medians and compared to controls.
Kelsey Piper, writer at Vox, concludes that the new study shows that challenge studies “do not, as many feared, attract people who simply do not understand risk assessment, nor do they primarily attract financially desperate people. In fact, participants are extensively screened to avoid these concerns. They mostly attract people who knowingly choose to take a small risk for themselves in order to protect their loved ones, their communities, and the world. “
Edited by Gary Cramer