Following up on the topic of diluting vaccine and the debate surrounding it in the simulation, China seems to be facing a similar dilemma today. China’s Health Ministry has just released a A/H1N1 vaccine despite expert concerns about efficacy and safety. It plans to conduct a free inoculation program that will serve 1.8 million residents and last until October 31. China currently has about 5,592 cases with H1N1 virus with no deaths. The vaccine that China has released has not been tested according to normal protocol. Researchers have only conducted clinical trials for 3 months, when trials typically last several years. The key concern is that there will be serious side effects from the vaccine which have yet to surface in the clinical trials. However, the Health Ministry believes that this risk minimal compared to the risk of the H1N1 flu and that the public will benefit more from the vaccine. Health officials intend to keep a close watch for any complications post-vaccination.
Is it ethical to release a vaccine if the severity of its side effects are unknown? Does distributing a vaccine that may be entirely ineffective give the public a dangerous false sense of security? As we saw today in the simulation, there is no clear answer to these questions. Hopefully, China has made “the right” decision in this specific case. Only time will tell.