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Ensuring an Ethical Path to a ‘Warp Speed’ Vaccine

Penn scholars, including Penn Nursing’s Alison Buttenheim, PhD, consider the ethical implications of the development and allocation of a COVID-19 vaccine.

A vaccine for COVID-19 is seen by many—rightly or wrongly—as the finish line for the pandemic, the shot that will mark the resumption of our normal lives.

Yet recent polls suggest that a significant fraction of Americans may opt not to get a vaccine when one becomes available, or are at least wary of getting it. Especially concerning are poll results indicating that populations that have been hardest hit by COVID-19, specifically Blacks and Latinos, have high rates of vaccine hesitancy.

As dozens of COVID-19 vaccines enter various stages of clinical trials, what is being done to ensure this accelerated process is being conducted ethically? How will an eventual vaccine or vaccines be distributed in a fair manner among the various groups that have jobs, physical conditions, or living circumstances that put them at greater risk? And how can public health officials convince people that a vaccine is safe and worth receiving, especially among populations who not only have been victims of unethical and harmful scientific and clinical processes, but also bear the brunt of the disease a vaccine is aiming to prevent?

Bioethicists, clinicians, and others at Penn have been grappling with these questions about COVID-19 since the earliest days of the pandemic.

This is an excerpt from a story that was originally published in Penn Today. It was written by Katherine Unger Baillie. Click here to read the entire version.