Bioethicist Cautions Against Too Much Caution In Vaccine Research

Jun 27, 2017

When German measles, or rubella, broke out in the U.S. in the 1960s, women were terrified about the disabling effects the disease could have on their unborn babies. Clinicians eventually developed a vaccine but would not administer it to pregnant women, believing it was too risky – a decision that led to thousands of abortions and a huge amount of stress and fear. 

The zika virus, which is similarly mild for most adults but can be devastating for fetuses, could fall prey to the same thinking as medical researchers endeavor to create and test a vaccine. And these efforts raise larger questions about which populations participate in medical testing, and which are excluded.

Host Frank Stasio talks with bioethicist and social medicine professor Anne Lyerly and with history professor Leslie Reagan about the historical example of rubella and the current state of medical research involving pregnant women.