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As Coronavirus Vaccine Rollout Continues, What Are Some Of The Ethical Questions We (And Public Health Experts) Will Be Considering?

Pharmacist Colleen Teevan reconstitutes the Pfizer/BioNTech before having it administered to people at the Hartford Convention Center in Hartford, Connecticut on January 4, 2021. - The vaccine is being given to First Responders currently and front line workers at the Hartford Convention Center, where a vaccine distribution clinic has been set up.  Hartford Health Care is currently running ten vaccinations centers with an eleventh planning to open next week and a total capacity to vaccinate 2000 people a day. (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP) (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)
JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images
Pharmacist Colleen Teevan reconstitutes the Pfizer/BioNTech before having it administered to people at the Hartford Convention Center in Hartford, Connecticut on January 4, 2021.

The first doses of two different coronavirus vaccines are being distributed to frontline health care workers and people living in long-term care facilities, with people 75 and older who are not in a nursing home setting and essential workers next in line to be immunized.

The first doses of two different coronavirus vaccines are being distributed to frontline health care workers and people living in long-term care facilities, with people 75 and older who are not in a nursing home setting and essential workers next in line to be immunized. But who should qualify as an essential worker? Should essential workers get the vaccine before people 75 and older? These are just some of the ethical questions we’ll be asking as more doses of the vaccines are administered in the U.S. and worldwide.

One issue that ethicists expect to be front and center is the verification of who has been vaccinated, who hasn’t, and how being vaccinated may allow you to do certain things that your unvaccinated peers can’t? The New York Times reported that major airlines like United and Jet Blue are expected to introduce an app that will verify virus test results, and eventually vaccination status, for passengers. This method could start being used by employers, schools, businesses and more as more doses of the vaccine are administered, and some medical ethicists worry this could create winners and losers, shutting those who haven’t been vaccinated out of parts of society that people who have would be able to access.

Today on AirTalk, medical ethicist Dr. Aaron Kheriaty from the UC Irvine School of Medicine joins Larry Mantle to talk about this and other ethical considerations that will be made as doses of the coronavirus vaccine continue to be administered. Have a question for Dr. Kheriaty? Join our live conversation by calling 866-893-5722.

Guest:

Aaron Kheriaty, M.D., professor of psychiatry at UCI School of Medicine and director of the Medical Ethics Program at UCI Health; he has served as a consultant on Covid response, ventilator triage, and vaccine allocation to the UC Office of the President, the California Department of Public Health, and the Orange County Department of Health; he is also a member of the Orange County COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force; he tweets

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