More than 20,000 volunteers have already signed up in France to test vaccinations against Covid-19, just one week after the campaign was launched - as cases of the virus continue to rise.
The call for volunteers came last week from national health and medical research institute, l’Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale (Inserm).
The volunteers will take part in clinical trials that will use vaccinations that are currently being developed.
Although Inserm said it was aiming to recruit 25,000 volunteers, the number of people to have come forward in just one week is being hailed as a success, as recruitment for the remaining 5,000 continues. Similar results have been seen across campaigns in Germany and the Netherlands.
In Europe, medical agencies are studying the data available from two major vaccination projects, comprising the University of Oxford trial in association with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca; and the BioNTech trial with Pfizer.
In France, the goal of the new clinical trials will be to produce more high-quality data on vaccines currently being developed. The 25,000 volunteers will not all test the same product.
Some will take part in one of five trials of a product at phase 2 (which includes testing the dose and the date of vaccinations on 50-500 people), and some will take part in one of three trials at phase 3, which will test on several thousand people, to check if the vaccine is safe and genuinely protects against Covid-19.
One of the major goals of the study is to study populations that may be more vulnerable to Covid-19, including those with pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, kidney issues, cardiovascular problems, or obesity.
The trial aims to provide more data on the effectiveness of a future vaccine among these higher-risk populations, in comparison to a more general population.
Trials among the new volunteers are expected to begin at the end of the year at the latest.
Yet, the apparent appetite to find a vaccine does not mean that the process can be rushed through without care for the usual checks. In the USA the national Food and Drug Administration recently published a series of precautionary measures that it would require to authorise a vaccine.
These include a mandatory two-month break between the most recent vaccination to a clinical trial patient, and the submission of a commercialisation request for the jab. This rule alone means that it is unlikely that a vaccination will be ready much before the end of 2020, and certainly not before the US Presidential election in November.
French President Emmanuel Macron had also suggested that he was hopeful a vaccine would be developed before the end of the year, but this now appears unlikely.
According to the World Health Organisation, there are currently 42 projects worldwide that have reached phase 2 (wide scale human testing phase) and 10 that have reached phase 3 (checking that the vaccine is effective and safe).
In France, there is one vaccine that is in phase 1 (first testing on 10-100 healthy people); this is the Institut Pasteur project.
Covid-19 in France: Latest figures
The so-called “second wave” of the epidemic is continuing in France. Over the past 24 hours, there were 16,101 new cases confirmed, and 46 new deaths. There are currently 1,489 cluster outbreaks being investigated - including 55 more in the past 24 hours.
Over the past seven days, there were 5,084 new hospitalisations, of which 910 are in intensive care.
Strict restrictions have been imposed across major cities in France, including Paris, Toulouse, Montpellier, Lille and Grenoble; and today (Monday October 12) Prime Minister Jean Castex has asked the public to limit the number of people they have in their homes as part of the series of new measures, including a new StopCovid app.
Mr Castex said: “The public was maybe too quick to think that the virus had disappeared [but] the reality of the ‘second wave’ is here. There can no longer be any relaxing [of rules].”