Issues of power are at the forefront of many areas of life: medical development is no exception. Within any narrative of the development of vaccination, you can see a range of examples of practices that would not stand up to contemporary research ethics.
From Lady Mary Wortley Montague’s having her children variolated in the early 1700s to the role played by the labourer’s son James Phipps in the development of the smallpox vaccine, to the testing of smallpox variolation on prisoners, the involvement of the less powerful or those without a choice is evident.
The following report details the execution of vaccine trials in Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland in the 1960s and 1970s.
Maeve O’Rourke, Claire McGettrick, Rod Baker, Raymond Hill et al., CLANN: Ireland’s Unmarried Mothers and their Children: Gathering the Data: Principal Submission to the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes. Dublin: Justice For Magdalenes Research, Adoption Rights Alliance, Hogan Lovells, 15 October 2018. (You can access the report here)
The current breakdown in vaccination uptake has at its core a breakdown of communication and a failure to engage in multiple modes of listening: this breakdown is evident on all ‘sides’ of the issue.