Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, a multitude of ethical issues about resource scarcity have arisen. Different questions about the fair distribution of tests, personal protective equipment, and life-saving medical technology seem to come about every day. As the pandemic has evolved, the necessity for a vaccine has become more obvious, as well. Though there seems to be a race to discover the vaccine, the question of how to do so in a fair and just manner seems to only be in the back of a few minds. Though the vaccine itself will need to be allocated, the glass vials, temperature-controlled storage units, and other basic supplies that are needed to create it will be just as crucial. With so many moving parts, America’s lack of infrastructure could potentially botch the vaccine’s rollout. If a vaccine is found and able to be widely produced, fair distribution of it must be at the forefront of the conversation. According to the equal opportunity approach, everyone should be entitled to the necessary resources that will allow them to achieve “normal functioning” and equally compete for opportunities in society. In an ideal world, I believe that viewing the vaccine as a part of the right to healthcare would ensure that citizens are able to reach this baseline of normal functioning. Realistically, though, the issue of resource scarcity far outweighs the issue of the right to equal opportunities and access to healthcare.
Guaranteeing absolute equality is not economically feasible, so finding ways to prioritize who should get the vaccine first is critical. During the H1N1 pandemic, government organizations were able to efficiently and effectively distribute the vaccine to the highest priority group, showing that prioritizing has been successful in the past. Because healthcare professionals are risking their wellbeing to help others, getting first priority of the vaccine could help them get closer to achieving normal functioning. The vaccine would provide them with at least a small amount of protection and reduce the severity of symptoms if they were to get COVID-19. This would give the healthcare professionals a better chance of recovery, allowing them to equally compete for opportunities more quickly. Apart from healthcare professionals, I believe that we must give second priority to individuals with pre-existing conditions. Getting the vaccine would give them at least some protection, easing their anxieties and allowing them to equally participate in society again. It is a fact that certain people will be treated differently during vaccine distribution, but it is up to us to ensure that it is in the most fair way possible.
Though prioritizing seems to be a good way to provide some baseline amount of equal distribution of the vaccine, would the lack of infrastructure stop this process before it even begins? Would having a general, national distribution of the vaccine be more realistic due to the weak infrastructure, or would that completely eliminate the fairness of the vaccine distribution?