Should vaccination status be a consideration during secondary triage?

Should vaccination status be a consideration during secondary triage?

Publication date: Jan 22, 2024

The rapid development of widely available and effective vaccines has been integral to the international response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a significant minority of those offered vaccination have refused, often due to their adherence to ‘anti-vax’ beliefs. These beliefs include that vaccines are dangerous, render the recipient magnetic or contain government microchips. During the pandemic, numerous calls were made for those voluntarily refusing vaccination to be deprioritised when allocating scarce healthcare resources. While these calls were rejected, the likelihood of the same calls being made during future pandemics necessitates a thorough examination of the ethical implications entailed by such a policy. Here, I consider an intuitive argument for the use of vaccination status when allocating healthcare resources. This argument claims that, by avoiding vaccination, vaccine refusers are failing to fulfil a social obligation to protect those around them from harm by facilitating herd immunity. They are, therefore, less deserving of healthcare than their vaccinated peers. I explore three objections to this argument. While a first objection, asserting that no individual can be held responsible for a failure to develop herd immunity, fails, I find two further responses, respectively asserting the primacy of patient autonomy and highlighting the harms deprioritising vaccine refusers would cause to disadvantaged minorities, compelling. I, therefore, conclude that vaccination status should not be considered during healthcare resource allocation, as such discrimination would disproportionately harm marginalised communities.

Concepts Keywords
Covid Philosophy- Medical
Deprioritised Policy
Ethics Resource Allocation


Type Source Name
disease VO vaccination
disease VO effective
disease MESH COVID-19 pandemic
disease VO vaccine
disease VO vaccinated

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