December 8, 2005

Kate Olderman
(215) 349-8369


Penn’s Center for Bioethics Launches Vaccine Ethics Project
Threat of Avian Flu Pandemic Highlights the Need for Ethical Guidelines

(Philadelphia, PA) - The Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine today announced the beginning of an 18-month project to examine the field of vaccine development and use, and propose an ethical framework to help guide researchers, pharmaceutical companies, public-health agencies, health-care providers, and citizens regarding vaccines and their safe, effective, and ethical use.

A team of leading physicians, public-health officials, academics from the University of Pennsylvania and other leading institutions, media representatives, and others are beginning deliberations to lay the groundwork for the project.

“Just as Hurricane Katrina uncovered a number of very unacceptable realities associated with our nation’s preparedness and our response to the poorest of our citizens, the prospect of an avian flu pandemic - and it is still a prospect - is bringing into sharp focus where we need to prioritize our energies in terms of the ethics around the role of vaccine in global public health,” said Arthur Caplan, PhD, Director of Penn’s Center for Bioethics and Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics at the medical school.

To that end, the Ethics of Vaccines Project has assembled a very strong team of experts from the academic, governmental, and private-sector communities to provide an in-depth examination of the issues. “Our goal is to develop a robust ethical framework to help move this area of our public-health infrastructure forward,” noted Caplan.

The record of accomplishment in the vaccines field is extraordinary - and vaccines will obviously continue to play a significant role in reducing or eliminating infectious disease globally. “But the headlines, editorials, and talk-show analyses on the ‘avian flu pandemic’ underscores the long-overdue need to develop a supporting and coherent ethics framework around vaccines,” said Caplan. “After monitoring the global vaccines field for the last year, Penn’s Center for Bioethics received initial funding to launch a series of interdisciplinary seminars to engage the issues around the ethics of vaccines.”

For more information about the Ethics of Vaccine Project sponsored by Penn’s Center for Bioethics, visit



PENN Medicine is a $2.7 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and high-quality patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Penn’s School of Medicine is ranked #2 in the nation for receipt of NIH research funds; and ranked #4 in the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s most recent ranking of top research-oriented medical schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System comprises: its flagship hospital, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, consistently rated one of the nation’s “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; a faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network; two multispecialty satellite facilities; and home health care and hospice.

This release is available online at