Laura McCosker faced ethical dilemmas when the need to distribute COVID vaccines disrupted her research plans.
I started my PhD in February 2020, two weeks after the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in Australia. One month later, Queensland, where I am based, was in lockdown, and we spent much of the next two years under pandemic restrictions. These were scheduled to lift in December 2021, but the state government warned that a wave of COVID-19 was coming. ‘Get vaccinated’ was the message.
The research integrity discussed in this item is the integrity of a project’s design and its ability to achieve its stated goals. For research with vulnerable people in difficult circumstances, it can be incredibly challenging to treat participants with respect, dignity and care. For Laura, her research with homeless Australians in the midst of a terrifying pandemic could have been impossible. This Nature piece discusses how she was able to juggle the integrity of the research while at the same time treating her participants with the greatest of respect.
To do this, I connected with Dona Hooshmand, a public-health doctor who was running mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinics for this population in southeast Queensland.vg`udy found that 95% of people who are homeless in Australia have a mobile phone.)
But the team was very small — often just me and the doctor — so I soon became involved in running the clinics. This involved designing fliers, coordinating with staff at sites, providing education about COVID-19, assisting with gaining consent, organizing paperwork, doing data entry and helping with set-up. This ensured that as many people as possible could be vaccinated before the restrictions lifted in December and the wave of cases peaked.