In a report released today, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues concluded that the federal government would have to take multiple steps before anthrax vaccine trials with children could be ethically considered. The Bioethics Commission, chaired by Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania, was responding to a request from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius who last year asked the members to study the question of anthrax vaccine trials with children after receiving a recommendation from another federal committee that such research be initiated, pending ethical review.
“The safety of our children is paramount and we have to get this precisely right,” Gutmann said. “The Bioethics Commission concludes that many significant steps would have to be taken, including additional minimal-risk research with adult volunteers, before pediatric anthrax vaccine trials prior to an attack should be considered."
Gutmann also authored a perspective piece in the March 19 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine about the issues raised in the report. That article is available at http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1302093.
Penn faculty member Anita L. Allen also serves on the Presidential Commission. She is is the Henry R. Silverman Professor of Law and professor of philosophy at Penn, where she is a senior fellow in the Bioethics Department of the Perelman School of Medicine. She was formerly a deputy dean for academic affairs at Penn Law.