Home News Is It Ethical to Continue COVID-19 Vaccine Trials?

Is It Ethical to Continue COVID-19 Vaccine Trials?

Is It Ethical to Continue COVID-19 Vaccine Trials?

Over the past few weeks, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have given emergency use authorization (EUA) to two COVID-19 vaccines, one by Pfizer-BioNtech and one by Moderna.

As a result, in the coming months, millions of the most vulnerable people in the U.S. will receive a vaccine that protects them against the disease.

This is good news, but it does pose an ethical dilemma for researchers conducting ongoing clinical trials of these and other COVID-19 vaccines. More than 180 candidate vaccines against the disease are in development, with at least 12 in phase 3 clinical trials.

Clinical trials investigate whether or not a vaccine is safe and effective by giving it to around half of all the volunteers (and giving a placebo vaccination to the rest). The trials are “double blind,” meaning that neither the participants nor the researchers know which participants received the vaccine and which received the placebo.

According to guidance issued by the FDA in June 2020, in the event of a COVID-19 vaccine being judged safe and effective, there may be a case for “unblinding” trials and offering the vaccine to those who received the placebo.

Given that the treatment options remain limited for anyone who develops a severe, life threatening case of COVID-19, it may be in the best interests of trial participants to receive one of the two proven vaccines as soon as possible.

Is it, therefore, unethical to continue placebo-controlled clinical trials of these two vaccines? Also, should researchers use placebos in trials of other COVID-19 vaccines?

Bioethicists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center in Bethesda, MD, address these complex ethical issues in an opinion piece in the latest issue of the journal Science.

Benefits for society

The authors emphasize that vaccine researchers need to take other factors into consideration when they decide whether or not to continue trials as originally planned.

They write that even if early results have found some vaccines to be safe and effective, continuing to conduct trials may bring further benefits for society.

For example, due to the challenges of manufacturing sufficient quantities as rapidly as possible, several different vaccines may be necessary to meet global demand. Also, in parts of the world with poor health infrastructures, vaccines that need to be stored and transported at very low temperatures — as is the case for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — are impractical.

In addition, some vaccines may be more effective than others at protecting particular groups, such as older people or those with comorbidities.

“This highlights the potential social value of conducting additional trials after one or more vaccine candidates are found to be safe and efficacious,” they write.

Even after the FDA grant EUA to a vaccine, conducting further research may provide additional information and reassurance about its safety and efficacy before offering it to millions of people.



Eskalera, a Startup Led by Goldman Sachs’ Former HR Head Has Launched a Diversity and Inclusion Index

Eskalera, a technology startup led by Goldman Sachs former human resources head Dane Holmes, has launched an index to measure corporate diversity and inclusiveness,...

HSBC to Remove 35,000 Jobs Amidst Covid-19 Crises

HSBC Holdings Plc has restarted cutting as many as 35,000 jobs, three months after the coronavirus outbreak forced it to pause a long-awaited overhaul...

Genpact Offers Its Internal Skill Training Program Globally for Everyone

Genpact has announced Adapt and Rise, a role-based online learning platform that leverages Genpact's expertise honed from delivering real-world change for hundreds of clients....

San-Francisco Based Learning Platform Degreed Has Raised $32 Million in New Funding

The upskilling platform, Degreed, has announced $32 million in new funding in direct response to overwhelming demand for better skill insights, talent mobility, and...

Research Shows the Implications of Workplace Layouts on Employee Productivity and Overall Performance

As some workplaces prepare for the gradual return of employees and overhaul office layouts and seating plans, research has shown this could also have...

Employee Concierge ‘Back Technologies’ Integrates Automation Into Internal HR and Other Support Tasks

Companies are under increasing pressure to automate workflows and digitally service their employees, particularly in light of trends toward remote work. It takes an...

HR Strategies to Help Your Business Navigate the New ‘Normal’

No business is immune to the massive changes resulting from the health crisis. Organizations have proven themselves to be agile, and employees have demonstrated...

The Importance Of Diversity And Inclusion In HR, Hiring, Talent Management: Thoughts From A Top Expert

Michael C. Hyter is one of today’s best-known experts on inclusion and diversity and the author of The Power of Choice: Embracing Efficacy to Drive Your Career and The...

HR Expert Highlights Actionable Steps to ‘Make Real Change’ Against Racism in Your Workplace

Kyra Leigh Sutton, Ph.D., is a faculty member at the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations, where she teaches human resources courses...

Adidas Employees Want Company to Investigate HR Chief for Response to Racial Issues

A group of Adidas employees from around the globe is asking the company to investigate its chief human resources officer, as part of a...