Organisers behind the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine may soon allow trial volunteers to learn if they had a placebo rather than the shot, so they can get the real thing if they want.
More than 43,000 people were enrolled in trials to test the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine, but half of those received a placebo mixture of salt and water. The vaccine developers, Pfizer and BioNTech, may now tell guinea pigs if they got the placebo and allow them to take the real thing, Bloomberg reported.
“Pending required approvals, Pfizer and BioNTech plan to provide an option for clinical trial participants who received the placebo to get the vaccine at scheduled time points in the study,” Pfizer said in a statement. “This option will be voluntary and implemented in alignment with the regulatory authorities where the trial is being conducted.”
The Telegraph last week reported that volunteers in the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine trial would also be “unblinded” so they can receive potentially life-saving Covid vaccinations quickly.
Regulators’ approval of vaccines raises an ethical dilemma for organisers who want their trials to continue as long as possible collecting data on the long term effects of new shots. Yet maintaining the trial’s experimental conditions can mean those on placebos foregoing potentially life-saving jabs.