Eleanor Immerman
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Eleanor Immerman

Ellie studies the ethical and social frameworks underlying challenge trials, focusing on volunteerism in Covid-19 human challenge trials (HCTs). HCTs are a type of vaccine trial that involves intentional exposure to a virus, to speed up identification of whether a vaccine works. Such trials have been proposed for Covid-19 vaccines—and attracted over 30,000 prospective volunteers globally—even though no rescue treatment exists. Ellie delves into the history of exposure trials, particularly focusing on the ways these have been nontherapeutic and caused harm along racial and gendered lines. Ellie also interviews ethicists, regulators, and prospective Covid-19 HCT volunteers to understand the dynamics of their bioethical views in the midst of a pandemic; how they reconcile the harms of both past exposure trials and the lack of diversity in medical trials; shifts in regulatory barriers and ethical hurdles amid a pandemic; and concepts of participatory decision-making in designing HCTs.

Ellie’s background is in nuclear policy and history, sociology of medicine, neuroethics, and community equity initiatives. She received her master's degree in Technology Policy from MIT. Ellie has done neuroscience laboratory research in memory, addiction, and sex differences. She has also worked in nuclear and space policy at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Science and Technology Policy Institute, and as a graduate student in the Laboratory for Nuclear Security and Policy at MIT. On community equity work, Ellie has collaborated with the Cambridge Community Foundation, Somerville Public Schools’ Adult Basic Education Program, Cambridge Public Schools’ Classroom Tutoring Program, and Boston Public Schools’ Restorative Justice Program. She has an undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago in international studies, where she wrote a thesis on how coercion plays into nuclear rollback decisions.

Key words

medical apartheid, sociology of knowledge; technocracy; participatory action research, biopolitics




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