Justice in COVID-19 vaccine prioritisation: rethinking the approach

J Med Ethics. 2021 Jun 9;medethics-2020-107117. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2020-107117. Online ahead of print.


Policies for the allocation of COVID-19 vaccine were implemented in early 2021 as soon as vaccine became available. Those responsible for the planning and execution of COVID-19 vaccination had to make choices about who received vaccination first while numerous authors offered their own recommendations. This paper provides an account of how such decisions should be made by focusing on the specifics of the situation at hand. In that light, I offer an argument for prioritising those who are likely vectors of the disease and a criticism of the victim-focused priority proposals put forward by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the UK National Health Service, and others. I also offer thoughts on how those authors may have gone astray.

Keywords: COVID-19; distributive justice; ethics; public policy; resource allocation.