A Long Queue of Ethical Questions

As Western countries rush COVID-19 vaccines to their populations, Africa’s 1.3 billion people may be near the end of the line, the AP reports.

That’s troubling, says Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director John Nkengasong, because 60% of Africans needs to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the next 2-3 years to keep the virus from becoming endemic on the continent.

Nkengasong is already working to refute misinformation: “If I had my way today to take a flight to the U.K. and get that vaccine, I would be doing it right now,” he said.

Meanwhile, as the US absorbs new recommendations to put health workers and nursing home residents at the front of the line, advocates of other at-risk groups are speaking up.

  • Trial volunteer placebo recipients: They took a risk for the greater good, so don’t they deserve the real jab now? But they might have to wait at least 2 years, the New York Times reports. The thorny challenge: Researchers need long-term results comparing the vaccine and placebo groups.

  • Not all front line medical workers are eager to go first; Robert Atmar, a member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, told NPR he’s hearing a lot of hesitation that he attributes to the politicized nature of the vaccine development.

  • And: Expect the rich and privileged to worm their way to the front of the line through the black market, ethic experts told STAT.
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