Coronavirus: Rogue scientists warned to stop trying DIY coronavirus vaccines

Scientists testing DIY COVID-19 vaccines on themselves, friends, family and brave - or foolhardy - volunteers are being told to stop.

Just because they're injecting their homemade concoction into themselves doesn't mean they're not breaching ethical rules, legal experts say.

With a vaccine produced the usual way - developed by pharma giants, undergoing tests involving tens of thousands of people - potentially months if not years away, some scientists have taken matters into their own hands. 

One effort by a Seattle bioscientist named Johnny Stine, was shut down by the authorities in June, the New York Times reported. Stine was forced to pay back everyone who paid US$400 for the vaccine he designed. Stine "capitalised on this crisis by marketing a substance they misrepresented as an effective and safe vaccine against COVID-19 that was available to consumers immediately", Washington state Attorney-General Bob Ferguson said, the Seattle Times reported. 

Another DIY effort dubbed RaDVaC, sprayed up the nose, "has been used repeatedly over a few months, by over twenty self-experimenters, with the most extreme complication in some recipients of stuffy noses", according to its creators. 

A third, CoroNope, is shrouded in mystery - its creators refuse to say who's involved, saying they fear a crackdown from officials. 

One of the world's most successful vaccines - for polio - was tested by inventor Jonas Salk on himself. 

But nowadays, the obvious health risks aside, lawyers say the makers of such vaccines are opening themselves up to legal trouble. 

"We're all sympathetic to the notion that people want to inoculate themselves against the virus," University of Illinois law professor Jacob S Sherkow said this week, "but people need to understand that every home remedy is not necessarily going to help, and some may very well be fatal." 

Sherkow and other legal academics in the US have published an article in scientific journal Science, saying if there are side-effects from their untested vaccines, they risk undermining public confidence in those in future that might actually work. 

"We're living in an age of vaccine disinformation," said Sherkow. "It's one of the reasons why we have phased clinical trials for the development of vaccines and medical treatments. It's not just a matter of figuring out whether something is effective or whether it works. It's also a matter of figuring out the gross toxicity of the treatment, and if it's been manufactured in such a way so that it's not going to harm people."

Some vaccines in development have reached phase 3 trials, where they're tested on tens of thousands of people to see if they're safe and they work. The trial of Oxford University's vaccine candidate was temporarily halted after one volunteer developed a rare neurological condition, for example. 

Sherkow said many people seem to think that by experimenting on themselves, they're free of having to adhere to ethical rules - but that's often not the case. 

"Some self-experimentation can qualify as human subjects research that is required to undergo ethics review, by law or institutional policy. Just because it's self-experimentation doesn't give you carte blanche."

The lawyers are also warning the public not to try the vaccines these independent groups come up with.

"Just because there's a list of instructions on the internet created by a lot of well-respected and well-trained scientists doesn't mean that something can't go wrong."