Penn’s Center for Bioethics recently announced the beginning of an 18-month project to examine the field of vaccine development and use, and propose an ethical framework to help guide researchers, pharmaceutical companies, public-health agencies, health-care providers, and citizens regarding vaccines and their safe, effective, and ethical use.
A team of physicians, public-health officials, academics from Penn and other institutions, media representatives, and others are beginning deliberations to lay the groundwork for the project.
“Just as Hurricane Katrina uncovered a number of very unacceptable realities associated with our nation’s preparedness and our response to the poorest of our citizens, the prospect of an avian flu pandemic—and it is still a prospect—is bringing into sharp focus where we need to prioritize our energies in terms of the ethics around the role of vaccine in global public health,” said Dr. Arthur Caplan, director of the Center and chair of the department of medical ethics at the medical school.
“Our goal is to develop a robust ethical framework to help move this area of our public-health infrastructure forward,” noted Dr. Caplan.
The record of accomplishment in the vaccines field is extraordinary—and vaccines will obviously continue to play a significant role in reducing or eliminating infectious disease globally. “But the headlines, editorials, and talk-show analyses on the ‘avian flu pandemic’ underscores the long-overdue need to develop a supporting and coherent ethics framework around vaccines,” said Dr. Caplan. “After monitoring the global vaccines field for the last year, the Center received initial funding to launch a series of interdisciplinary seminars to engage the issues around the ethics of vaccines.”
For information see www.bioethics.upenn.edu/vaccines/?page Id=1.