A proposed non-consequentialist policy for the ethical distribution of scarce vaccination in the face of an influenza pandemic

Glasgow School for Business and Society, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow G4 0BA, UK.
Journal of medical ethics (Impact Factor: 1.51). 03/2012; 38(5):317-8. DOI: 10.1136/medethics-2011-100031
Source: PubMed


The current UK policy for the distribution of scarce vaccination in an influenza pandemic is ethically dubious. It is based on the planned outcome of the maximum health benefit in terms of the saving of lives and the reduction of illness. To that end, the population is classified in terms of particular priority groups. An alternative policy with a non-consequentialist rationale is proposed in the present work. The state should give the vaccination, in the first instance, to those who are at risk of catching the pandemic flu in the line of their duties of public employment. Thereafter, if there is not sufficient vaccine to give all citizens equally an effective dose, the state should give all citizens an equal chance of receiving an effective dose. This would be the just thing to do because the state has a duty to treat each and all of its citizens impartially and they have a corresponding right to such impartial treatment. Although this article specifically refers to the UK, it is considered that the suggested alternative policy would be applicable generally. The duty to act justly is not merely a local one.

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