Impact Ethics

Vaccine Trial Participation


Phase I clinical trials typically work to identify the toxicity and tolerability of a vaccine, drug, or medical device or procedure using healthy volunteers. There is an extensive literature that demonstrates that individuals are motivated to participate in clinical trials for a variety of reasons, which include financial compensation, a sense of duty, curiosity, health benefits, boredom, and a concern for public health, amongst others. Little is known, however, about the motivations of participants in clinical trials for vaccines, which typically require healthy volunteers and offer inoculation as the only health benefit to be gained. The little research on Phase I vaccine trials that does exist has focussed largely on the specific case of HIV vaccine trials, targeting specific at-risk populations.

Researchers at NTE: Impact Ethics, in collaboration with the Canadian Center for Vaccinology (CCfV), are conducting a study that aims to generate much-needed data on the motivations of healthy participants in Phase I vaccine clinical trials. The study aims to identify what factors motivate participation in vaccine clinical trials, and their relative importance for trial participants. Further, by comparing the motivations of participants in an Ebola vaccine trial and an influenza vaccine trial, this study will provide useful information about whether participant motivation is influenced by the nature of the particular public health issue that the vaccine addresses. Indeed, there may be significant differences between a high-profile public health issue (such as Ebola, characterized by its epidemic nature) and a low-profile public health issue (such as influenza, which occurs on an ongoing, yearly basis).



Page last updated May 2015.