Ebola vaccine development plan: ethics, concerns and proposed measures

BMC Medical Ethics 17 (1):1-8 (2016)
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Abstract

BackgroundThe global interest in developing therapies for Ebola infection management and its prevention is laudable. However the plan to conduct an emergency immunization program specifically for healthcare workers using experimental vaccines raises some ethical concerns. This paper shares perspectives on these concerns and suggests how some of them may best be addressed.DiscussionThe recruitment of healthcare workers for Ebola vaccine research has challenges. It could result in coercion of initially dissenting healthcare workers to assist in the management of EVD infected persons due to mistaken beliefs that the vaccine offers protection. It could also affect equity and justice. For example, where people who are not skilled health care professionals but who provide care to patients infected with Ebola are not prioritized for vaccination. The possibility of study participants contracting Ebola infection despite the use of experimental vaccine, and the standard of care they would receive, needs to be addressed clearly, transparently and formalized as part of the ethics review process. Future access to study products in view of current status of the TRIPS agreement needs to be addressed. Finally, broad stakeholder engagement at local, regional and international levels needs to be promoted using available communication channels to engage local, regional and international support. These same concerns are applicable for current and future epidemics.SummarySuccessful Ebola vaccine development research requires concerted efforts at public dialogue to address misconceptions, equity and justice in participant selection, and honest discussions about risks, benefits and future access. Public dialogue about Ebola vaccine research plans is crucial and should be conducted by trusted locals and negotiated between communities, researchers and ethics committees in research study sites

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