Guinea Pigs No More on Medical Trials

Ideas and Issues Wade's World

New Orleans      The political division over vaccinations continues to rage.  There were demonstrations in Europe.  There’s a headline about some kind of truckers’ convoy moving in  Canada to protest in Ottawa.  In the United States, it’s everywhere it seems, with a hardcore of 15% or so that say never ever.  Meanwhile, US hospitals are overrun and more than 72% of the cases filling up hospital beds are from the unvaccinated.  It seems life or death for many, and some are choosing death.  We’ll be thinking about that problem long after the pandemic eventually ends, and, believe it or not, it will eventually end.

The rationalizations for not being tested are many and varied.  One of them used to be that the vaccines were still only provisional, but the Centers for Disease Control and the FDA have all now signed off on the available vaccines.  There are always risks, but thus far the downside has been minimal.  Some in the hardcore believe that the CDC itself is part of some grand conspiracy and lying, but despite some flubs and miscommunications, there’s no indication that there is deliberate misinformation from the CDC, and once again the proof is in the pudding now that tens of millions have in fact had the doses and can testify that they’re working.

I talked about all of this with Professor Sydney Halpern in discussing her book, Dangerous Medicine:  The Story Behind Human Experiments with Hepatitis on Wade’s WorldHer research had looked at the use of humans to test live viruses for hepatitis, triggered by incidents of the various forms of the disease among the troops in World War II.  None of the trials for the Covid-19 vaccines involved live viruses, since they were testing antidotes to the virus.  The hepatitis testing involved so-called volunteers, many of whom, especially in centers for the differently enabled mental community, didn’t even know the risks or agree to them, often with the center directors acting as their so-called guardians.  In the prison community, the incentives made the “volunteering” suspect.  Others were conscientious objectors, who in fact were in many cases willing volunteers, trying to prove their mettle in the war effort, but certainly not realizing the permanent risks they were taking then or as a carrier later.  Fortunately, this became a scandal, not as high profile as the Tuskegee situation, but coupled with that situation, forcing change.

As a medical ethicist, Halpern was quick to point out the protections that now exist in any testing or trials to assure that volunteering is genuine, even though still controversial, she reports.  She argues that the situation in looking at the vaccines is a world apart and top notch, and in fact was continually careful to point out the safety now.

Not that this will change any minds, but as horrific as the learning curve as been, there’s no question that we’re in a better place and can keep our eyes open and proceed safely now.