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Research ethics and public trust in vaccines: the case of COVID-19 challenge trials
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  • Published on:
    One cheer for trust
    • Simon N. Whitney, Ethicist and retired family doctor Baylor College of Medicine, Emeritus

    Eyal is correct that ethicists’ speculations about how the public may respond to human challenge trials are often made without a whisper of evidence.

    This is not a new problem. The Institute of Medicine titled a 2001 monograph Preserving Public Trust: Accreditation and Human Research Participant Protection Programs. One might think that a book with this title would demonstrate that the IRB system preserves public trust, but the title is merely an ornamental flourish. The book is devoted entirely to the accreditation of IRBs; public trust is neither analyzed in depth nor is there any attempt to show that accreditation improves trust.

    We all agree that trust is important, which is what earns it one cheer. Assertions about its future trajectory merit additional applause only when they are are supported by evidence.

    Cite: Institute of Medicine (U.S.). Committee on Assessing the System for Protecting Human Research Subjects. 2001. Preserving Public Trust: Accreditation and Human Research Participant Protection Programs. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.