Why should HCWs receive priority access to vaccines in a pandemic?

Journal article


Symons, Xavier, Matthews, Stephen Crawford and Tobin, Bernadette Margaret. (2021). Why should HCWs receive priority access to vaccines in a pandemic? BMC Medical Ethics. 22(1), pp. 79-88. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12910-021-00650-2
AuthorsSymons, Xavier, Matthews, Stephen Crawford and Tobin, Bernadette Margaret
Abstract

Background: Viral pandemics present a range of ethical challenges for policy makers, not the least among which are difficult decisions about how to allocate scarce healthcare resources. One important question is whether healthcare workers (HCWs) should receive priority access to a vaccine in the event that an effective vaccine becomes available. This question is especially relevant in the coronavirus pandemic with governments and health authorities currently facing questions of distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

Main text: In this article, we critically evaluate the most common ethical arguments for granting healthcare workers priority access to a vaccine. We review the existing literature on this topic, and analyse both deontological and utilitarian arguments in favour of HCW prioritisation. For illustrative purposes, we focus in particular on the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. We also explore some practical complexities attendant on arguments in favour of HCW prioritisation.

Conclusions: We argue that there are deontological and utilitarian cases for prioritising HCWs. Indeed, the widely held view that we should prioritise HCWs represents an example of ethical convergence. Complexities arise, however, when considering who should be included in the category of HCW, and who else should receive priority in addition to HCWs.

KeywordsCOVID-19; Vaccines; Healthcare resource allocation; Reciprocity; Utilitarianism; Deontology; Policy
Year01 Jan 2021
JournalBMC Medical Ethics
Journal citation22 (1), pp. 79-88
PublisherBioMed Central Ltd.
ISSN1472-6939
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1186/s12910-021-00650-2
Web address (URL)https://bmcmedethics.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12910-021-00650-2
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
Research or scholarlyResearch
Page range79-88
Publisher's version
License
File Access Level
Open
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online27 Jun 2021
Publication process dates
Accepted17 Jun 2021
Deposited21 May 2024
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© The Author(s) 2021.

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ . The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/ ) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

Place of publicationUnited Kingdom
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