COVID-19 Vaccine Refusal and Fair Allocation of Scarce Medical Resources

JAMA Health Forum 3 (4):e220356 (2022)
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Abstract

When hospitals face surges of patients with COVID-19, fair allocation of scarce medical resources remains a challenge. Scarcity has at times encompassed not only hospital and intensive care unit beds—often reflecting staffing shortages—but also therapies and intensive treatments. Safe, highly effective COVID-19 vaccines have been free and widely available since mid-2021, yet many Americans remain unvaccinated by choice. Should their decision to forgo vaccination be considered when allocating scarce resources? Some have suggested it should, while others disagree. We offer a framework for evaluating when it is ethical and briefly discuss its legality in American law.

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Govind Persad
University of Denver

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