Have a look at Moderna Partial Results Part 1. This is in the same theme.
Russian confidence in their vaccine is based on 40 human study participants. It did not take long for U.S. researchers to realize that the Russians had tested the vaccinated volunteers with live COVID-19 virus. It could have been a death sentence for some. Judging by their tone, they won their gamble – for now.
So we have to imitate! (NBC) U.S. to make coronavirus strain for possible human challenge trials. Putin is right; this truly is a Sputnik moment. Then it was the space race; now the germ race. Quoting,
Such trials are typically done when a virus is not widely circulating, which is not the case with COVID-19. Many scientists consider human challenge trials of the novel coronavirus unethical because there are no “rescue therapies” for those who fall ill.
There is no situation of “typically done.” Someone is trying to open the door a crack.
The space race was a test of technological dominance, capitalism-versus-communism, which implied political and cultural superiority of the winner. The Germ Race requires innovation of ethics. Quoting,
Van Hoof said such trials would offer a testing option in case the virus stops circulating widely, but the company would only move forward with such trials if the ethical issues are resolved and an effective treatment is available.
If there were an effective treatment, there would be no need for desperate measures, but let us not be distracted from our goal, which will be conveniently defined by a combination of need, greed, and momentum. Someone is prying at the door.
We must rise or sink to the occasion. Groucho Marx, said “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.” Facetious, of course. This is a Nathan Hale moment for the study volunteer, who might say “‘I only regret, that I have but one life to lose for my country on a ventilator.”
Should Russia be condemned for risking 40 lives? Absolutely not. In the West, there are already indications of viable vaccines for every need. Take your pick: speed of production, immunogenic potency, shelf-life stability. Russia is not the West. Outside Moscow, it is a poor country that cannot afford the parallel efforts of the West. Their vaccine has to work.
Should Russia be condemned for exaggerated claims? The propaganda is irritating, but they don’t have to worry about lawsuits.
Should we congratulate ourselves for appropriating Russian ethics? I think not. Though if he were he alive today, Dr. Str_____ would pronounce the Russian move an astonishingly good idea. If the Russians have an unethical protocol, we have to have one too. This is as race to the bottom we cannot afford to lose. There must be a bottom. How low can you go? We cannot let the Russians get to the bottom first.
We’ve been there already. The history of Western medicine is replete with studies that make the Russian study innocuous. The atrocities are not limited to the likes of Nazi Josef Mengele or Japan’s Unit 731.
We can find it close to home. The U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee, on black males without knowledge or consent, ran from 1932 to 1973. Even in the 30’s, syphilis could be treated with difficulty. After World War II, a single shot of penicillin was curative in stage 1, while all but those who had progressed to tertiary syphilis could have been treated.
While the Tuskegee study is a powerful statement about racial bias, the human radiation experiments conducted by U.S. Public Health Service and the Atomic Energy Commission between 1944 and 1947 apply the same ethical flaw to the weak, sick, old, and disabled.
Operation White Coat, bio-warfare experimentation on consenting participants is the bookend of questionable U.S. human challenge studies. Conducted at Fort Dietrich on enlisted volunteers between 1954 and 1973, there were no deaths. Some participants report persistent health problems.
Like the Russian vaccine trial, the White Coat experiments were challenge studies of no benefit to the participants. You might insist there is a difference between military bio-warfare research and protection of civilians. But much of the work at Fort Dietrich was defensive in nature, and COVID is a potential bio-warfare agent. It has already disabled an aircraft carrier. The line between bio-warfare and plagues does not exist.
This was the country of our fathers. We have progressed beyond with the strength that comes from reckoning with ugly truth. In 1978, the Belmont Report attempted to fix our little ethical problem (pdf original document). Wikipedia makes a nice abstract from these quotes:
- Respect for persons: protecting the autonomy of all people and treating them with courtesy and respect and allowing for informed consent. Researchers must be truthful and conduct no deception;
- Beneficence: the philosophy of “Do no harm” while maximizing benefits for the research project and minimizing risks to the research subjects; and
- Justice: ensuring reasonable, non-exploitative, and well-considered procedures are administered fairly — the fair distribution of costs and benefits to potential research participants — and equally.
This reads like the collapse of the St. Francis Dam in LA.. It was built by the William Mulholland of Muholland Drive. LA must have had a critical street name shortage. The foundation of the Belmont Report is self-levitating prose. Lacking the force of gravity, the push for human trials of the deadly COVID-19 virus will level the Belmont Report. The rubble will consist of a few paperclips.
Quoting from NBC,
NIAID said it is continuing to prioritize field trials to evaluate SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates, but it opened the possibility to challenge trials for future generations of vaccines or treatments.
This is not a possibility we should be open to. We should fight it tooth and nail. If you are a decision maker, tempted in a weak moment, consider this. The Russian human challenge trial shows efficacy, but not safety.
- Both the Russian and Oxford vaccines contain novelties.
- Novelties can contain surprises.
- Surprises can be bad.
Sometimes fear has no name.
I’m going to look into recreational submarines so I can follow this underwater-Sputnik- germ race to the bottom.