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Are COVID-19 vaccine trials ethical?

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Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

As the race to create a COVID-19 vaccine speeds ahead, many people have expressed an unwillingness to receive the immunization once it’s available, arguing that the vaccine won’t have enough time to undergo proper vetting. Now, researchers fear that some of those same people won’t be interested in participating in vaccine clinical trials, illuminating a tricky catch-22—people don’t want a vaccine unless it’s been tested, but people also don’t want to be part of the tests because of the unknown risks. 

Suspicions about the vaccine development process were reinforced last week following the death of a Brazilian volunteer in an experimental trial for a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University, and produced by the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.  While it’s unclear whether the participant’s death was linked to the trial, the incident nonetheless sowed doubt among an already dubious section of the population, as reflected in the subsequent downturn in AstraZeneca shares

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