The Ethics Of Animal Testing For Vaccine Development And Potential Alternatives

2451 words - 10 pages

Animal testing is important to ensure the safety of a variety of products, specifically pharmaceuticals, vaccines, and medical devices used for surgery and other treatments. It has also been used throughout history for various purposes. Once an unregulated practice, today there are laws, regulations, and requirements associated with the ethical use of animal models. In the United States, animal studies are now required before moving on to clinical trials. Legalities aside, controversy still arises between scientists, and public opinion can vary from unconcerned to extreme. The practice of vaccination is an important part of maintaining public health, and it has proven to be beneficial to both humans and animals. In regard to vaccine development, animal testing during the pre-clinical stage seems to be a necessary part of the process. The growth of technology may provide us with potential alternatives to animal testing, and the search for such alternatives is of ethical importance.
Historically, the use of animals for experimental purposes dates back to early Greek physician-scientists. Aristotle and Galen both conducted experiments on animals in an effort to contribute to our understanding of science and medicine.1 Claude Bernard later established animal experimentation as part of the scientific method. Known as the father of physiology, Bernard stated that “experiments on animals are entirely conclusive for the toxicology and hygiene of man. The effects of these substances are the same on man as on animals, save for differences in degree.”1 Bernard’s work strongly influenced the use of animals in biomedical research, which has become a common, and often required, practice today. The American Medical Association (AMA) emphasized the importance of animal testing by stating, "In fact, virtually every advance in medical science in the 20th century, from antibiotics and vaccines to antidepressant drugs and organ transplants, has been achieved either directly or indirectly through the use of animals in laboratory experiments."2 The practice of vaccination was first developed by Edward Jenner in 1796, when he demonstrated that a person could be protected against smallpox if previously inoculated with cowpox. At the time, Jenner had no way of knowing the cause of disease. Robert Koch proved that microorganisms were the cause of infectious diseases in the late 19th century. The work of Koch and other microbiologists of the time enabled us to extend vaccine strategies to other diseases.3
Animal testing has become an important stage in vaccine development. The first stages are exploratory and involve basic laboratory research. Methods of treatment, such as natural or synthetic antigens, are identified; this process may take an average of 2-4 years. The pre-clinical stage involves animal testing and may take an additional 1-2 years. Information gathered is used to determine the safety and potential success or failure of the vaccine. ...

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