The Hierarchy of Priority

“A COVID-19 Vaccine Reality Check,” is an article recently published in The Atlantic by Sarah Zhang. In this article, Zhang looks at the current COVID-19 vaccine development that is taking place as well as the distribution plans to the public that are currently being assessed. Elements that most of the public is not involved in or that does not cross their minds. Zhang makes it evident that just because there is a high requirement for the vaccine due to the casualties, it does not change the fact that the vaccine needs to be rigorously tested before it can be mass-produced to try and save the lives of thousands. Despite the media giving regular updates claiming that the vaccine could be here as early as next month, Zhang believes it is going to be much longer. As well as this, Zhang creates a large ethical issue relating to the distribution of the vaccine, which is; who is given the vaccine first? When produced, it is still going to take time for the vaccine to be produced in numbers large enough that everyone is going to be able to receive it. Personally, when I think about this issue, I would look to a more logical and utilitarian method for distribution.

Taking this logical and utilitarian view on this issue, the best method would be to save the most lives possible and give to those that have the highest risk of contracting the virus. This would be the best possible scenario. In this case, those working on the frontlines as medical workers would be prioritized first. They are currently in the most danger by working with those who have COVID-19 every day, and because of their bravery and hard work, they should receive the safety of a vaccine first. This fits the utilitarian viewpoint as the person at higher risk has been saved first, and so the risk of life loss has decreased. This seems to be the most logical idea. Alongside this, the medical worker group fighting on the frontlines is not a large group of people meaning that the likelihood of being able to vaccinate all is high and even the possibility of still having vaccines left is also high. It seems simple for now.

Still keeping this utilitarian viewpoint, the next stage of distribution would be to give the vaccine to the group of people who are the most vulnerable of the rest. This would include those with underlying health conditions as well as the very young and old members of our society. Through research, it has proved that those groups have the highest percentage fatality rates from COVID-19; therefore, it is those whom we must protect next. From a purely utilitarian viewpoint, this argues stands, however, some arguments can arise when it comes to vaccinating the older generations. Due to the limited supply of vaccine, we must use them wisely – some research has been published that indicates that many of those older people dying of COVID-19 already had a high chance of dying through other causes by the end of 2020. Because of this research, some have argued that it is not worth vaccinating these people as they still have a high chance of dying soon after administration and so the vaccine could have been put to good elsewhere. This is extremely difficult to decide, though, as it based primarily on statistics.

The real issues, however, arises after these two groups have received the vaccine. Who should receive it next? It comes down to a decision between teenagers and the middle-aged—research proving that neither is at a very high risk of dying from COVID-19. As a 19-year-old, I feel confident in being able to fight the virus and opt for vaccinating the middle-aged first; however; some disagree with my viewpoint as they are less confident in their safety. On top of this should the vaccine be mandatory for all or are people allowed to choose whether they want it at all. This comes back to the anti-vax arguments. This distribution of the vaccine is a complicated matter from an ethical standpoint as to who gets it first due to the limited supply. It appears to be more subjective than objective. How safe do you feel without one? If given the opportunity to be vaccinated over someone at higher risk would you take it? What is your hierarchy of priority?

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