Motivation for participating in phase 1 vaccine trials: Comparison of an influenza and an Ebola randomized controlled trial

Vaccine. 2019 Jan 7;37(2):289-295. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2018.11.014. Epub 2018 Dec 7.


Introduction/hypothesis: Recruitment of participants into phase 1 vaccine clinical trials can be challenging since these vaccines have not been used in humans and there is no perceived benefit to the participant. Occasionally, as was the case with a phase 1 clinical trial of an Ebola vaccine in Halifax, Canada, during the 2014-2016 West African Ebola virus outbreak, recruitment is less difficult. In this study, we explored the motivations of participants in two phase 1 vaccine trials that were concurrently enrolling at the same centre and compared the motivations of participants in a high-profile phase 1 Ebola vaccine trial to those in a less high-profile phase 1 adjuvanted seasonal influenza vaccine study.

Methods: An online survey which included participants' prior experience with clinical trials, motivations to participate (including financial incentives), and demographic information was developed to examine the motivations of healthy participants in two phase 1 clinical vaccine trials conducted at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Participants were invited via email to complete the online survey. Readability and clarity were assessed through pilot testing.

Results: A total of 49 (55.7%) of 88 participants of the two studies completed the survey (22 [55%] of 40 participants from the Ebola vaccine study and 27 [56.3%] of 48 from the adjuvanted influenza vaccine study). Motivations that were most frequently ranked among participants' top three in both trials were (1) wanting to contribute to the health of others, (2) wanting to participate in something important, (3) wanting to contribute to the advancement of science, and (4) wanting to receive an incentive such as money or a tablet.

Conclusions/recommendations: Although media attention and financial compensation were more often cited by Ebola vaccine trial participants as a reason to participate, both altruistic and self-interested factors were important motivations for participants in their decision to participate in a phase 1 vaccine clinical trial.

Keywords: Adjuvant; Altruism; Ebola vaccine; Influenza vaccine; Participant motivation; Phase 1 clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Altruism
  • Canada
  • Clinical Trials, Phase I as Topic
  • Disease Outbreaks / prevention & control
  • Ebola Vaccines / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers / psychology*
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Influenza Vaccines / administration & dosage*
  • Influenza, Human / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Patient Participation / psychology*
  • Patient Selection
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Ebola Vaccines
  • Influenza Vaccines