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Ethical framework for equitable global COVID-19 vaccine distribution

04 September 2020

Philosopher Lisa Herzog, associate professor at the Faculty of Philosophy, was member of an international research team that wrote the article An Ethical Framework for Global Vaccine Allocation, which was published in Science on 3 September. The team, led by oncologist and bioethicist Ezekiel J. Emanuel, has researched how a corona virus vaccine can be distributed around the world fairly and equitably.

Everybody acknowledges the importance of an equitable distribution of a vaccine, and many recognize that ethics is a central factor in the decision-making around it. However, so far nobody has provided a systematic framework or recommendations. The authors therefore argue to use the Fair Priority Model developed in the article.

The Model is an ethical framework for governments, international health organizations and vaccine producers to help judge how vaccines should be distributed to certain groups that have been harmed by the virus directly or indirectly. In doing so, irreversibility (for example death, permanent organ damage) is one factor, but so is the question whether compensation is possible (for example in case of the loss of jobs, or in case of closure of schools), and of course the severity of harm.

The Model proceeds in three phases. Implementation of the first phase reduces premature deaths and other irreversible health impacts. Phase two aims at reducing serious economic and social deprivations, such as the closure of businesses and schools, apart from addressing enduring health harms. Lastly, phase three reduces community transmission of the virus.

To be able to implement the Model and to determine when a phase is complete, epidemiological and economic assessments will be needed.

More information

An Ethical Framework for Global Vaccine Allocation

Lisa Herzog’s profile page


This article was published by the Faculty of Philosophy.

Last modified:11 September 2020 3.29 p.m.
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