‘Cheap survival and a too-expensive vaccine: Racial valuation and Hepatitis B in Africa, 1980s-90s’, Dr Noémi Tousignant, Dept of Science and Technology Studies, UCL
25 October 2022, 4pm
CHSTM Seminar Room: Simon 2.57 [maps and travel]
Seminars will also be streamed. URL to be announced. Keep an eye on the seminar webpage for more details.
Abstract: This talk tracks the earliest, plasma-based hepatitis B vaccines through debates about their testing, production, and provision in/for West Africa in the 1980s and 1990s. When they hit the market in the early 1980s, Hevac-B (Pasteur Production) and Heptavax (Merck, Sharpe and Dohme) were the most expensive vaccines yet. While vaccine expensiveness posed widespread supply and distribution dilemmas, its stakes were differently calculated and imagined across spaces (and times) of economic and epidemiological disparity. I attend to how such calculations of vaccine value was enmeshed with implicit valuations of Black lives and body parts in three debates, about: epistemological and ethical rationales for testing an ‘unaffordable’ vaccine in The Gambia; antigen-plasma procurement and manufacturing locations; and the virtuous cheapness of routine immunization in sub-Saharan Africa. The talk thus highlights the racial logics that made it possible to experiment with – but not to produce or invest in the routine provision of – a vaccine that was anticipated to remain ‘too expensive’ for Africans, even as these were designated as most in need of its immunizing effects. Thus, it was not just socio-spatial patterns of vaccine accessibility that were racialized, but also the modes by which these were rendered acceptable.
Take a look at the CHSTM Research Seminar Programme
Seminar Convenors 2022-23: Professor Ian Burney and Dr Neil Pemberton