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    Peer Reviewed

    Immunization to regulate fertility: biological and cultural frameworks.

    Schrater AF

    Social Science and Medicine. 1995 Sep; 41(5):657-71.

    One aim of providing fertility-regulating vaccines is to prevent pregnancy in an individual by inducing reversible contraception. The recipient population of both types of vaccines can be children and adults. The biological bases and immunological targets of traditional vaccines mean that immunity can be antibody-mediated and cell-mediated. Fertility-regulating vaccines are directed against the immunologically accessible molecules involved in reproduction. These may be molecules on the surface of mature gametes (sperm and ova), or the hormones involved in the reproductive process. Several anti-gamete vaccines under development generate immune responses that react directly on intact, mature sperm and ova. The prototype anti-hormone vaccines are of two basic types, those against the hormones necessary for maturation and release of gametes and those against a placental hormone necessary to maintain the early stages of pregnancy. Pituitary and hypothalamic hormones consist of follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone. Among placental hormones the most advanced contraceptive vaccines are those against human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). Three prototype hCG vaccines have undergone limited clinical trials in women. Various perspectives concern developers and users. Since its inception in 1972, the WHO's Special Program of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction has played a central role in the development of contraceptive vaccines. The perspectives of women, as potential users, tend toward consideration of disadvantages, in contrast to the generally positive perspectives offered by the developers. With regard to the state vs. the rights of the individual, the topics include: restricted access to methods of contraception and to abortion; incentives or outright coercion as a means of imposing birth control; and the issues of parenthood, and individual and state responsibility raised by reproductive technologies.
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