Lochlann Jain

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Stanford U.

Grant number

Gr. 9958

Approve Date

October 29, 2019

Project Title

Jain, Lochlann (Stanford U.) "The Hepatitis B Vaccine: Gay Men and Experimentality in the 1970s"

JAIN LOCHLANN, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, was awarded funding in October 2019 to aid research on ‘The Hepatitis B Vaccine: Gay Men and Experimentality in the 1970s.’ This project analyzed an understudied component of the history of hepatitis B: the testing of the first vaccine on gay male subjects in New York from 1973-1979. Hepatitis B, a highly infectious virus, spreads through contact with human blood and other body fluids. Although the majority of cases resolve naturally or can be treated, ten percent of people exposed will develop chronic infection or liver cancer. Unlike previous vaccines, the hepatitis B vaccine used neither a killed nor an attenuated virus, but DNA isolated from the blood plasma of infected people. Merck’s Heptavax-B has been touted as the first human cancer vaccine. Selected after a pilot trial of 13,000 men, gay men were chosen specifically for their high prevalence of STDs and risk of hepatitis B. A large multi-pronged recruitment campaign lasting over a year in an effort to gather over 1100 men to join the trial and a further group of hepatitis B positive men to donate blood for vaccine manufacture. The trial has been considered one of the most successful trials ever, with the success rate of vaccine some 97% This research analyzed the trial by bringing into conversation literatures on gay history and identity formation, ethnographic work on the constitution of populations in RCTs, and the urban geography of gay community life in the 1970s to understand how gay men came to be legible and available as trial subjects.