Vaccinating Pregnant Women Against Ebola

In a STAT News opinion piece, Johns Hopkins University experts, including our Ruth Faden, argued it is unfair to deny pregnant and lactating women the experimental Ebola vaccine if they wish to take it, given the great risk the virus poses to those who are exposed to it.

“From a public health perspective and an ethical perspective, the decision to exclude pregnant and lactating women is utterly indefensible,” they wrote.

The authors are members of Pregnancy Research Ethics for Vaccines, Epidemics, and New Technologies (PREVENT) Working Group, which has brought together an international team of experts in bioethics, maternal immunization, maternal-fetal medicine, obstetrics, pediatrics, philosophy, public health, and vaccine research to provide specific recommendations developed to address this critical gap in vaccine research and development and epidemic response. This group recognizes that excluding pregnant women from efforts to develop and deploy vaccines against emerging threats is not acceptable.

Ruth R. Faden, PhD, MPH

Ruth R. Faden, PhD, MPH, is the founder of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. She was the Berman Institute’s Director from 1995 until 2016, and the inaugural Andreas C. Dracopoulos Director (2014-­2016). Dr. Faden was, and is currently, the inaugural Philip Franklin Wagley Professor of Biomedical Ethics. In the twenty years in which Dr. Faden led the Berman Institute, she transformed what was an informal interest group of faculty across Johns Hopkins into a one of the world’s premier bioethics programs with over 35 faculty, 30 staff and over 100 alumni. Under her direction, the Berman Institute became a university­wide unit of Johns Hopkins with its own building, reporting to the Provost. Dr. Faden also secured a significant endowment for the Berman Institute, including six endowed professorships and an endowed directorship.

Dr. Faden is a leading scholar in the field of bioethics. She is the author and editor of numerous books and many articles on biomedical ethics and public policy, including most significantly Social Justice: The Moral Foundations of Public Health and Health Policy (with Madison Powers), A History and Theory of Informed Consent (with Tom L. Beauchamp), Structural Injustice: Power, Advantage, and Human Rights (with Madison Powers; forthcoming, Oxford University Press).

Dr. Faden’s current research focuses on structural justice theory, and on national and global challenges in food and agriculture, learning health care systems, health systems design and priority setting, and access to the benefits of global investments in biomedical research. Dr. Faden also works on ethical challenges in biomedical science, with a particular focus on women’s health and the rights and interests of pregnant women.

Dr. Faden is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and a Fellow of the Hastings Center and the American Psychological Association. She has served on numerous national advisory committees and commissions, including President William Clinton’s Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, which she chaired. Dr. Faden co­launched the Global Food Ethics and Policy Program, sponsor of the 7 by 5 Agenda for Ethics and Global Food Security. She is also a co­founder of the Hinxton Group, a global community committed to advancing ethical and policy challenges in stem cell science, and the Second Wave initiative, an effort to ensure that the health interests of pregnant women are fairly represented in biomedical research and drug and device policies.

In 2011, Dr. Faden was the recipient of Lifetime Achievement Awards from the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH) and Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIMR).