V IS FOR VACCINATE
Past, Present, and Future of Ethical Research
We’re introducing our “V is for” campaign, an interview series shining a light on trailblazing medical professionals in our community. The campaign explores topics in healthcare that conveniently begin with our namesake letter V.
V IS FOR | FEBRURARY 24, 2021
About Jordin, RN
Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back. Jordin, RN has an insatiable thirst for knowledge, which led to a pivot in her career path. She is a Houston research clinical trial nurse on a mission to improve patient care through nurse-driven innovation. On a given day, she sees patients, manages her own studies, and helps treat people in clinical trials who would otherwise not receive any treatment due to lack of access to care.
"I hope to produce nurse-driven tools, both digital and tangible, to improve patient care."
vaccines: a brief history
Since their inception, vaccines have had a tumultuous history. The first “vaccine” dated back to the early 19th century, which involved the practice of injecting patients with fluid from a cowpox blister. This led to the development of a vaccine to prevent the spread of smallpox. Despite the success, there was political backlash as well as skepticism regarding hygiene, sanitation, and cleanliness. Scientists developed more rigorous processes for vaccine formulation and injection with the novel practice of the aseptic technique starting in the mid 1800s. As medicine became increasingly advanced, several vaccines were rolled out, including the cholera, rabies, and polio vaccines. During this time, a live virus was still used to vaccinate individuals. Conversely, today's modern vaccines often use inactive or attenuated methods to yield safe and effective results, triggering an immune response rather than true infection. So where did it all go wrong, and how did everything become so polarized?
scars from the Cutter Incident
The Cutter Incident in the 1950s spearheaded a massive revolution in vaccination development. Several patients, including children, were infected with polio following vaccination. This resulted in 250 patients becoming paralyzed. The source of the vaccine was traced back to a single company: Cutter Laboratories. Despite safety testing and standard operating procedures, a manufacturing oversight led to a faulty production of these polio vaccines. This vaccine recall was the impetus for more robust government regulation.
After the incident, vaccine rates plummeted, and waves of doubt spread across the United States, expectedly so. As vaccines became mandated in certain cities, residents fought the court system (i.e. Henning Jacobson v. Massachusetts). Distrust, tension, and outcry mounted, creating a major fracture between the public and regulatory bodies. The bridge between the scientific process and the public opinion became increasingly disparate. Clinical trials adopted reform and regulation, as unethical experiments on people of color and undereducated individuals were rampant in a racist America (see Tuskegee Syphilis study and gynecological experiments). These horrendous experiments, among others, led to The Patient’s Rights movement of the 1970s, and later, the creation of the informed consent we still use today.
"The regulatory bodies that exist can make my job harder but, in retrospect, are necessary and valuable. Third-party monitors inspect for any protocol deviations and violations. Patients are allowed to exit trials at any time. While we still deal with the lasting effects of wrongdoings in the past, trials have the potential to help people with rare diseases. I want to make the field as honest and transparent as possible."