As I’m making my way through Polio: An American Story, I’m struck by the descriptions of Salk’s vaccines going missing during The Clinical Trial. Participating clinicians wanted to use the vaccines on themselves and their families to protect them from polio. It stands in stark contrast to contemporary reports of vulnerable populations being misinformed and misguided into participating in clinical trials overseas. Here’s a BBC article on clinical trials conducted in India among individuals affected by the Bhopal gas leak I found via Mara Hvistendahl on Twitter:
Time after time in Indore, I heard a depressingly familiar tale of poor, often uneducated people saying how flattered and privileged they were made to feel as they were suddenly offered the chance to receive medicines usually out of their reach. All of them claim that, contrary to Indian laws governing drugs trials, there was no informed consent.
I’ve been pondering how did we, as a society, go from stealing study vaccines for our own use to administering study medications to the underprivileged? And from having absolute certainty and faith that a vaccine would be safe+effective to doubting the safety+efficacy of vaccines that have long been in use? I’m looking forward to our discussion of Polio next week.