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by Keisha Ray, Ph.D.

With Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna/National Institutes of Health producing a viable vaccine for COVID-19 (along with two other companies on the precipice of also producing viable vaccines) and with distribution set to begin in just a few weeks for many health care providers, people have questions about when they will receive the vaccine. The New York Times has created a vaccine calculator in which you can input information about yourself such as your age and whether you have pre-existing conditions which make you vulnerable to COVID-19, and other information to then get an estimate of when you can expect to get the vaccine. On the CDC website the agency has answered a series of questions about the vaccine, including questions about the cost of the vaccine (no cost to the individual, although some providers can charge an administration fee that can be covered by public and private health insurance or government relief fund for people without insurance). Whereas…

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by Elisheva “Eli” Nemetz, BA, MBE

The field of bioethics emerged as a result of the atrocities attested to in the Nuremberg Trials and the inhumanity of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. People were a means to an end, and perverted minds engaged in medical experimentation on vulnerable individuals. These barbaric and sadistic ‘projects’ led to critical changes like the Nuremberg Code, which stated that voluntary consent from participants is essential for research (The Nuremberg Code, 1947).

Over time we have absorbed these lessons and applied them. Research ethics boards recognize and require the application of principles such as rationale for the research project, stated public or scientific benefit, determination of short-term and long-term risks, disclosure of any potential or foreseeable harms, and sharing of information surrounding data collection and data disposal, amongst other requirements.…

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Bela Fishbeyn, MS and David Magnus, PhD

Our publishers recently changed how they present journal metrics on Taylor & Francis Online. Each journal in their portfolio now features a new metrics tab on every journals’ home page that includes information about citation metrics, usage (downloads), speed (average days from submission to first decision, average days from acceptance to online publication, etc), and acceptance rate. 

The information was added in the hopes of empowering researchers and authors to make informed decisions by providing a broader range of metrics and clear information for their use. That said, they were only able to list a single number for AJOB’s acceptance rate – 33% – which lumps all of our article types together (target articles, OPCs, editorials, book reviews, etc). …

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Anne Zimmerman, JD, MS

By suggesting a lack of education or a failure to digest vaccination science, the public health officials and media miss a crucial point. Many people who do not want to accept a vaccine speak about liberty, and in the case of mandatory vaccination or vaccination as a condition of participation, bodily intrusion coerced by government. In February, 56 percent of white Republicans surveyed were unsure or planned to refuse vaccination. Their arguments are steeped in patriotism, loyalty to a bill of rights (albeit one that imagines no limits on those rights) and being American.  A scientific argument against vaccination refusal when the refusal is for a nonscientific reason is beside the point.…

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Brian M. Cummings, MD and John J. Paris, SJ, PhD

In The New York Times, almost overlooked amidst multiple articles on Covid-19 published that day, we found a challenging essay by Max Fisher entitled, “Europe’s Vaccine Ethics Call:  Do No Harm and Let More Die”?  Fisher inquires whether clinical bioethics should accept the decision of Germany to suspend the use of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine due to blood clots because of what bioethicists label “The Trolley Problem”.  

The ‘ Trolley Problem’ is a thought experiment designed to describe a decision-making process. It involves a scenario in which someone is standing at a railway switch.  If…

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In this age of radical political polarization, it’s good to be reminded of a man whom Reagan hired to please the social conservatives, yet whose 90th birthday party was hosted by Hillary Clinton.

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By Keisha Ray, PhD 

I have been interviewed by many journalists who are writing articles about the COVID-19 vaccines and Black people. Most of the interviews are very similar; journalists want to know how do medicine’s and public health’s past abuses of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people affect their willingness to trust medicine and get vaccinated against COVID-19. After making it clear that it is not people of color (POC) that need to work on their trust of medicine but that it is medicine who needs to work on its ability to be trusted, I tell journalists that medicine must do three things: 1) Acknowledge the problem, namely that medicine is not trustworthy in the eyes of many POC; 2) Apologize for past and current abuses of POCs bodies and minds and apologize for medicine’s role in structural racial inequality; and 3) Correct the way it treats POC, including remedying provider bias and racially biased diagnostic and therapeutic tools. …

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by Adam Omelianchuk, PhD

Consider what the future holds for mental health treatment options. One could authorize an “Internet of Things” to detect mood-changes from an app that monitors one’s social media posts; stress levels from a smartwatch; anxiety symptoms from tapping and scrolling patterns on a touchscreen; signs of cognitive impairment from a speech pattern analysis through anything with a microphone; the benefits of an A.I. chatbot that offers therapeutic conversation; the presence of gut microbes associated with autism from the examination feces deposited in a smart toilet; sleep quality from a smart mattress, medication compliance from a smart pill box (see Joshua Skorburg’s insightful commentary from which I borrowed this list).…

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by Naomi Scheinerman, PhD

The Biden-Harris Administration has a wonderful opportunity, particularly amidst a pandemic in which bioethics questions and difficult tradeoffs are not in short supply, to resurrect a group tasked to advise the president on “bioethical issues arising from advances in biomedicine and related areas of science and technology.” Created under the Obama administration, and dispersed under Trump, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues was responsible for numerous reports on topics that included synthetic biology, pediatric research, whole genome sequencing, neuroscience, and the Ebola outbreak in 2014-15. The Ebola report, in discussing the ethics of quarantine and testing placebo-controlled clinical trials during an epidemic, reiterated an often heard call from officials for “transparent public dialogue and deliberation on public health emergency response.”…

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by Alyssa Burgart

Last night, my phone exploded with texts from colleagues when a former anesthesiology resident at Oregon Health Sciences University, the famous “Tik Tok Doc” was named in a $45 million sexual assault complaint. In addition to the resident Dr. Jason L. Campbell, the suit names OHSU, a prominent anti-harassment advocate, residency program directors, leadership in the departments of Anesthesiology and Emergency medicine, and others in power. The 39-page suit alleges a massive institutional failure and highlights the features in a system where harassment thrives and flourishes. Sexual misconduct is inherently unethical, yet these behaviors pervade our profession, alter career trajectories, and prevent us from being our best selves or providing quality care to others.…

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Check out the recording of American Journal of Bioethics’ latest webinar on the ethical issues surrounding allocating COVID-19 vaccines. Journal editor David Magnus leads panelists Grace Lee, Kathy Kinlaw, Govind Persad, and Monica Peek in an informative and intriguing conversation. The original webinar was held on February 17th, 9a – 10:15a PT. But this webinar, along with our other webinars can be viewed on AJOB’s youtube channel, found here.…

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