July 6, 2017
Zika is a disease whose burden falls most heavily on pregnant women. In most people who come down with it, the virus is symptomless, and passes through the body with the person none the wiser. When symptoms do bloom, they are unpleasant, but not particularly dangerous to most. If someone who’s pregnant gets Zika, however, the consequences for the fetus can be devastating. The virus causes underdevelopment of the head and brain, known as microcephaly, and a hodgepodge of other symptoms, like eye damage and clubfoot, which are loosely categorized as Congenital Zika Syndrome.
For this reason, a working group made up of bioethicists, OB/GYNs, vaccinologists and others recently released ethics guidelines for Zika vaccine development, in which they recommend that pregnant women should be included in clinical trials for Zika vaccines.
So there are consequences, generally, of the exclusion of pregnant women from medical research. “And with Zika—because pregnant women [are] really at the heart of the concerns around the Zika epidemic, it was something that really couldn’t be overlooked,” says Carleigh Krubiner, a member of the ethics working group that put out the guidance, and a research scholar in bioethics at Johns Hopkins University.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.