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COVID-19 Immunity Passports and DIY Vaccines: A Discussion with Natalie Kofler & Alex Pearlman | GES Colloquium (Zoom)

August 11, 2020 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm EDT

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COVID-19 Immunity Passports and DIY Vaccines

Natalie Kofler, PhD, Founder, Editing Nature and Advisor, Scientific Citizenship Initiative at Harvard Medical School

Website | Email | Twitter @nataliekofler

Alex Pearlman, MA, Independent Journalist and Bioethicist, Researcher

Website | Email | Twitter @lexikon1

Description: Two leading experts on bioethics and DIYbio join us to discuss the complex issues surrounding COVID-19 immunity passports and “DIY” vaccines.


Governments around the world are exploring COVID-19 immunity passports as a way to safely reopen economies during the pandemic. Despite limited scientific data, proposed immunity passport programs are premised on the assumption that recovery from COVID-19 provides some level of protection from the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Those lucky enough to have survived the disease and privileged enough to gain proof of their presumed immunity could therefore return to work, travel, and attend social events with the belief that they are protected from reinfection and the ability to transmit the virus. Everyone else could not. At the same time groups have emerged who have developed, promoted, and tested on themselves and others, “DIY” COVID-19 vaccines; potentially enabling more individuals to attain immunity passports; while the rest of the world waits for an approved vaccine.

In the midst of a global pandemic, with increasing mis-information about the virus, potential treatments, and trust in governments’ response, how will society respond? Are ethics thrown out the window in the midst of a pandemic? Do they exacerbate equity and racial discrimination issues? Are they even legal? Do we care?

Join us as we discuss these questions with Alex Pearlman and Dr. Natalie Kofler, two leading experts on COVID-19 immunity passport programs and “DIY” vaccines.

Related resources: 

Additional recommended reading:

Speaker Bios

Dr. Natalie Kofler is the founding director of Editing Nature – a global initiative to steer responsible development and deployment of genetic technologies. She is a leading voice in technology ethics, governance, and scientific justice. Her work has been highlighted by The New York Times, Science, Nature, NPR, CBC radio, Pacific Standard Magazine, and National Geographic. She received her PhD in cellular, molecular, and medical biosciences and MS in human nutrition and metabolic studies from Columbia University and her BS in human anatomy and cell biology from McGill University. She lectures at the Center for Biomedical Ethics and is a senior advisor for the Scientific Citizenship Initiative at Harvard Medical School.

Alex Pearlman is an award-winning journalist and a bioethicist. Her reporting and commentary on emerging issues in science, and technology has appeared in Stat, New Scientist, MIT Technology Review, The Boston Globe, OneZero, Vice, and elsewhere.

Alex is also a Research Affiliate with the Community Biotechnology Initiative at the MIT Media Lab where she studies the intersection of the community biology movement with issues in ethics and policy. Alex received her MA in Bioethics and Society at King’s College London where her research focused on the ethics of assisted reproductive technologies, human enhancement, self-experimentation, and biohacking.


August 11, 2020
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm EDT
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