Preserving equipoise and performing randomized trials for COVID-19 social distancing interventions release_3ssx476icvevpmsmvkt3c4eddq

by Ioana Alina Cristea, Florian Naudet, John Ioannidis

Published in Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences by Cambridge University Press (CUP).

2020   Volume 29, p1-27


In the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, a large number of non-pharmaceutical measures that pertain to the wider group of social distancing interventions (e.g. public gathering bans, closures of schools, workplaces and all but essential business, mandatory stay-at-home policies, travel restrictions, border closures and others) have been deployed. Their urgent deployment was defended with modelling and observational data of spurious credibility. There is major debate on whether these measures are effective and there is also uncertainty about the magnitude of the harms that these measures might induce. Given that there is equipoise for how, when and if specific social distancing interventions for COVID-19 should be applied and removed/modified during reopening, we argue that informative randomised-controlled trials are needed. Only a few such randomised trials have already been conducted, but the ones done to-date demonstrate that a randomised trials agenda is feasible. We discuss here issues of study design choice, selection of comparators (intervention and controls), choice of outcomes and additional considerations for the conduct of such trials. We also discuss and refute common counter-arguments against the conduct of such trials.
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