Global health ethics

Immunization

Zika virus prevention, Barranquilla, Colombia
WHO/David Spitz

Background

Immunization raises a host of challenging ethical questions that researchers, governments, funders, pharmaceutical companies, and communities must confront.

Before vaccines can be administered, the preliminary phases of vaccine research are fraught with ethical dilemmas, particularly during and following the implementation of clinical trials. After licensure, many challenging questions arise related to the delivery of vaccines locally, regionally, and nationally.

An important ethical debate revolves around the permissibility of the use of placebo in vaccine trials. In 2013, WHO organized an international consultation to discuss this issue and the way forward.