Despite some early successes in the race for a coronavirus vaccine, medical ethicist Arthur Caplan says the history of vaccine development indicates we could still be years away from one available for widespread use. To speed the process along, he’s advocating for an extreme shortcut: purposefully infect people with the virus.

“If you wait for the usual pathway, it means you wait for nature to infect people after you give them the experimental vaccine and that takes years. You’re kind of hoping against hope that they get infected,” said Caplan, a bioethics professor and the founding head of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University.

“If you deliberately give people a purified form of the virus … it could take months if not years off of this. And you get good, solid, reliable data cause you got ‘em right under observation the whole time,” he added.

Caplan told Jim Braude on WGBH News’ Greater Boston Tuesday that researchers could mitigate the worst of what he acknowledged is a “significant risk,” by choosing the right participants.

“You try to recruit young people, people who are not likely to die,” he explained. “I think the risk would be less than donating a kidney, or somebody who’s donating a lobe of liver to somebody. So, you can tamp down the likely risk — I know there are unknowns — and I think, get this done with a minimum of danger.”

Caplan, who first made the case for infecting test participants in The Boston Globe, emphasized the importance of finding a vaccine quickly.

“You’ve got a plague. You wanna come out, you wanna restore the economy, you wanna protect health at the same time, the vaccine is the way to do it,” he said.

Not everyone is on board. In an ABC News/Ipsos poll out earlier this month, 25 percent said they were either “not so likely” or “not likely at all” to get a vaccine, if one is developed.

But Caplan said he thinks the private sector will likely compel widespread immunization.

“We’ll probably see companies require it to come to work," he argued. "We’ll probably see sports teams say you can’t come in the stadium until you show me your vaccine certificate."

Caplan also addressed President Donald Trump’s use of the experimental treatment hydroxychloroquine — which has not been proven to treat or prevent COVID-19 by any scientific study.

“Whoever gave the prescription is not following safe medical practice. That drug is a danger to people who are overweight (the president), older (the president), and it’s only been shown in terms of uses of preventative to have risk of heart problems,” he said. “So why you would indulge this man and say, ‘Okay, I’ll write the script,’ I don’t know.”

In April, the Food and Drug Administration warned against taking hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 outside of clinical trial settings. But after the president told reporters Monday that he has been taking the drug, the agency appeared to soften its stance with a statement calling the decision to take it one “between a patient and their doctor.”

Caplan called the move “ridiculous.”

“Obviously, it’s true doctors provide drugs that are out there and approved for their patients all the time. But they don’t take unnecessary risk for no benefit, and that’s what’s going on here,” he said. “People are going to look at this and they’re gonna say, ‘The president’s taking it? Then I’m gonna take it.’”

In fact, when it comes to the administration’s treatment of scientific experts and expertise during the pandemic, Caplan said it’s time for the scientific community as a whole to speak out.

“It’s time for a little saber-rattling and say if we don’t get the science back, if we don’t get unrestrained, uncensored input from the science community, then how about we have resignations or at least a day of protest,” he said. “And I’m not just talking about federal scientists. I’m talking, across-the-board, all scientists.”