Aggregated News

a needle and a tube
Respiratory syncytial virus, or R.S.V., is a nasty bug. It’s the leading cause of hospitalizations among American infants and results in thousands of deaths among the elderly each year.

So earlier this year, after the Food and Drug Administration approved two vaccines for adults 60 and up, approved antibodies for babies and toddlers, and approved a vaccine for pregnant individuals to protect newborns, the new capability to effectively deal with R.S.V. was hailed as a medical breakthrough. And it is.

The new vaccines have been thoroughly tested in accordance with today’s clinical trial standards. But this breakthrough has a history, one tangled up in questions of medical ethics and racial exploitation.

A fascinating report published this week in Undark, a nonprofit digital magazine affiliated with M.I.T. (I’m a member of the magazine’s advisory board), found that in the 1960s, some of the first and youngest subjects to receive experimental shots, in a clinical trial of early attempts to develop R.S.V. vaccines, were Black and poor children, some in foster care. And though questions remain about what parents knew, “archival documents...