However, the move raises a potentially different set of problems. As Merck's statement this afternoon makes clear, the researchers still intend to continue following the trial participants to gauge infection rates. But the behavior of the trial participants may very well change after knowing whether they were vaccinated or given a placebo. This, obviously, could make it more difficult to interpret the data, which is already posing challenging questions.
The decision wasn't easily reached. â€œClearly, the overarching and most important consideration is the well being of the volunteers,â€ Mark Feinberg, vp for medical affairs and health policy in Merckâ€™s vaccine division, tells the WSJ Health Blog. Arguing against the unblinding was George Counts, a retired infectious-disease doc formerly with HVTN, who on a panel that debated the issue last week. â€œIt will be difficult to answer any of the critical questions about this vaccine or the immune response,â€ he tells the blog. â€œIt just seems to me that we have an obligation to (participants) to get the most precise information out of this research study for which they have so courageously offered their willingness to participate.â€
This raises an ethical quandary. What do you think?
Is this the right thing to do?
- Yes (85%, 22 Votes)
- No (15%, 4 Votes)
Total Voters: 26
Hat tip to the WSJ Health Blog