So, Who’s First?

BY: CLAIRE KIM

So, Who’s First?

When the coronavirus vaccine comes out, ready for public use, who’s first? Who gets access to the initial limited supply of vaccines in the market? Who is considered a part of the “priority” batch, and who isn’t? How are we going to distinguish individuals, categorize them so that the vaccines can be distributed fairly? Or, do we even need to categorize people in the first place?

So, Who’s First?

“One solution that is starting to attract the attention of public health experts is a so-called weighted lottery, which gives everyone a chance at access, although some get a better shot than others. Doctors and ethicists rank patients, deciding which groups should be given preference and how much. First-responders, for example, may be weighted more heavily than, say, very sick patients who are unlikely to recover.” (New York Times)

Personally, I find this method to be quite fair and rational. Obviously, as seen in the film Contagion yesterday, the decision to just drive trucks hauled with vaccines in the middle of a parking lot, throwing such treatments for any lucky person to catch is ridiculous. Additionally, the film’s approach of fair distribution through their “bingo-style” roll call of birthdays is also absurd, an approach that would only lead to more frustration and anxiety in the process.

Talks about utilizing a weighted lottery system, weighted to ensure that those who are in desperate need are sought out first and “lottery-like” to instill a sense of fairness in the overall draw, have garnered positive feedback from both health officials and the general public since its announcement. Further, its safe and well-received results from earlier trials of this weighted lottery system with the distribution of remdesivir, the first “effective” coronavirus drug, has also proved how promising the approach is if later implemented with the official vaccine.

I think the one main argument some people might have against this system is the statement mentioned earlier, “First-responders, for example, may be weighted more heavily than, say, very sick patients who are unlikely to recover.” (New York Times) For those families or individuals themselves that are struggling in this “unlikely to recover” state, who are we to decide that they are illegible for the vaccine because we have this “inkling” that they are going to die anyway, that they have no hope for survival? How are we supposed to justify this, especially in front of him, her, or them?

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