Fit and healthy volunteers should be deliberately infected with Covid-19 so they can help fight the pandemic after their recovery, the novelist and NHS psychotherapist Salley Vickers has proposed.
Vickers, 70, suggested that a “controlled policy” of exposing volunteers to the virus under strict conditions might appeal to the “famously off-the-wall thinking” of Boris Johnson’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings. “I am surely not alone in hoping to get Covid-19 in order to be granted the immunity to return to the world and lend a hand,” she writes in a letter to the Guardian.
She and others would “then be in a unique position to offer up ourselves for research, to provide antibodies, to ameliorate the disease and, finally, join those valiantly fighting to help”.
The suggestion comes amid increasing debate around the idea of “immunity passports” for key workers and others who have had the disease and who could then be fast-tracked back into the workforce.
Although some doubts remain, and the area is the focus of continuing research, UK government experts have said that those who have had the virus once will develop some immunity and it is rare to get an infectious disease twice.
Vickers adds in her letter: “As a former psychotherapist who worked in the NHS, and especially with those with a mortal condition or whose loved ones had sadly died, I feel my services would currently be more worthwhile both to myself and others in that capacity than just dallying at home not getting on with writing my next novel.”
She told the Guardian that she expected people would question the idea on the basis of her age, but said that objective medical evidence such as her low cholesterol and good level of fitness meant she had a much younger physiological age. She said she was already shopping for vulnerable people in her village who were significantly younger.
Vickers is not the first public figure to talk about a policy of deliberate infection. Although in a different context, a senior Formula One chief revealed last month that he suggested the team’s drivers should try to become infected with coronavirus as it is the “ideal time”, as the season is on hold.
Helmut Marko, Red Bull’s head of driver development, said: “We have four Formula One drivers and eight or 10 juniors. The idea was to organise a camp where we could bridge this mentally and physically somewhat dead time and that would be the ideal time for the infection to come.”
Cummings, who has been self-isolating after reportedly developing coronavirus-type symptoms, has been keeping a low profile. Downing Street has rejected as “a highly defamatory fabrication” a claim that he initially argued against strict measures to contain coronavirus.
A report in the Sunday Times claimed that at one private event at the end of February, Cummings outlined the government’s strategy at the time in a way that was summarised by some present as “herd immunity, protect the economy, and if that means some pensioners die, too bad”.