In this article, we propose the Fair Priority Model for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, and emphasize three fundamental values we believe should be considered when distributing a COVID-19 vaccine among countries: Benefiting people and limiting harm, prioritizing the disadvantaged, and equal moral concern for all individuals. The Priority Model addresses these values by focusing on mitigating three types of harms caused by COVID-19: death and permanent organ damage, indirect health consequences, such as health care system strain and stress, as well as (...) economic destruction. It proposes proceeding in three phases: the first addresses premature death, the second long-term health issues and economic harms, and the third aims to contain viral transmission fully and restore pre-pandemic activity. -/- To those who may deem an ethical framework irrelevant because of the belief that many countries will pursue "vaccine nationalism," we argue such a framework still has broad relevance. Reasonable national partiality would permit countries to focus on vaccine distribution within their borders up until the rate of transmission is below 1, at which point there would not be sufficient vaccine-preventable harm to justify retaining a vaccine. When a government reaches the limit of national partiality, it should release vaccines for other countries. -/- We also argue against two other recent proposals. Distributing a vaccine proportional to a country's population mistakenly assumes that equality requires treating differently situated countries identically. Prioritizing countries according to the number of front-line health care workers, the proportion of the population over 65, and the number of people with comorbidities within each country may exacerbate disadvantage and end up giving the vaccine in large part to wealthy nations. (shrink)
Two principles form the basis for much priority setting in health. According to the greater benefit principle, resources should be directed toward the intervention with the greater health benefit. According to the worse off principle, resources should be directed toward the intervention benefiting those initially worse off. Jointly, these principles accord with so-called prioritarianism. Crucial for its operationalisation is the specification of the worse off. In this paper, we examine how the worse off can be defined as those with the (...) fewer lifetime Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs). We contrast this proposal with several alternative specifications. (shrink)
This report by the WHO Consultative Group on Equity and Universal Health Coverage addresses how countries can make fair progress towards the goal of universal coverage. It explains the relevant tradeoffs between different desirable ends and offers guidance on how to make these tradeoffs.
Countermeasures for mpox (formerly known as monkeypox), primarily vaccines, have been in limited supply in many countries during outbreaks. Equitable allocation of scarce resources during public health emergencies is a complex challenge. Identifying the objectives and core values for the allocation of mpox countermeasures, using those values to provide guidance for priority groups and prioritisation tiers, and optimising allocation implementation are important. The fundamental values for the allocation of mpox countermeasures are: preventing death and illness; reducing the association between death (...) or illness and unjust disparities; prioritising those who prevent harm or mitigate disparities; recognising contributions to combating an outbreak; and treating similar individuals similarly. Ethically and equitably marshalling available countermeasures requires articulating these fundamental objectives, identifying priority tiers, and recognising trade-offs between prioritising the people at the highest risk of infection and the people at the highest risk of harm if infected. These five values can provide guidance on preferable priority categories for a more ethically sound response and suggest methods for optimising allocation of countermeasures for mpox and other diseases for which countermeasures are in short supply. Properly marshalling available countermeasures will be crucial for future effective and equitable national responses to outbreaks. (shrink)
Most proposals for new international agreements aim to address important global challenges. If the goal is to solve problems, then the value of these agreements depends on their ability to influence the world — to shape norms, constrain behavior, facilitate cooperation, and mobilize action. A recent review of empirical studies has suggested that many international agreements fail to achieve their aspirations. The review indicates that the form in which states make commitments to each other — through an international legal agreement (...) or through other means — may not be as important as commonly thought. It is the content of the commitments and how these are supported by mechanisms to encourage implementation that matter the most. When developing proposals for new international agreements, like the one that has recently been proposed to address antibiotic resistance, attention to implementation mechanisms should therefore be equal to if not greater than the attention paid to its form. (shrink)
We reply to critics of the World Health Organisation's Report "Making Fair Choices on the Path to Universal Health Coverage". We clarify and defend the report's key moral commitments. We also explain its role in guiding policy in the face of both financial and political constraints on making fair choices.
The goal of achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) can generally be realized only in stages. Moreover, resource, capacity and political constraints mean governments often face difficult trade-offs on the path to UHC. In a 2014 report, Making fair choices on the path to UHC, the WHO Consultative Group on Equity and Universal Health Coverage articulated principles for making such trade-offs in an equitable manner. We present three case studies which illustrate how these principles can guide practical decision-making. These case studies (...) show how progressive realization of the right to health can be effectively guided by priority-setting principles, including generating the greatest total health gain, priority for the worse off, and financial risk protection. They also demonstrate the value of a fair and accountable process of priority setting. (shrink)
Due to constraints on institutional capacity and financial resources, the road to universal health coverage (UHC) involves difficult policy choices. To assist with these choices, scholars and policy makers have done extensive work on criteria to assess the substantive fairness of health financing policies: their impact on the distribution of rights, duties, benefits and burdens on the path towards UHC. However, less attention has been paid to the procedural fairness of health financing decisions. The Accountability for Reasonableness Framework (A4R), which (...) is widely applied to assess procedural fairness, has primarily been used in priority-setting for purchasing decisions, with revenue mobilization and pooling receiving limited attention. Furthermore, the sufficiency of the A4R framework’s four criteria (publicity, relevance, revisions and appeals, and enforcement) has been questioned. Moreover, research in political theory and public administration (including deliberative democracy), public finance, environmental management, psychology, and health financing has examined the key features of procedural fairness, but these insights have not been synthesized into a comprehensive set of criteria for fair decision-making processes in health financing. A systematic study of how these criteria have been applied in decision-making situations related to health financing and in other areas is also lacking. This paper addresses these gaps through a scoping review. It argues that the literature across many disciplines can be synthesized into 10 core criteria with common philosophical foundations. These go beyond A4R and encompass equality, impartiality, consistency over time, reason-giving, transparency, accuracy of information, participation, inclusiveness, revisability and enforcement. These criteria can be used to evaluate and guide decision-making processes for financing UHC across different country income levels and health financing arrangements. The review also presents examples of how these criteria have been applied to decisions in health financing and other sectors. (shrink)
La cobertura universal de salud está en el centro de la acción actual para fortalecer los sistemas de salud y mejorar el nivel y la distribución de la salud y los servicios de salud. Este documento es el informe fi nal del Grupo Consultivo de la OMS sobre la Equidad y Cobertura Universal de Salud. Aquí se abordan los temas clave de la justicia (fairness) y la equidad que surgen en el camino hacia la cobertura universal de salud. Por lo (...) tanto, el informe es pertinente para cada agente que infl uye en ese camino y en particular para los gobiernos, ya que se encargan de supervisar y guiar el progreso hacia la cobertura universal de salud. (shrink)
This World Bank Report offers a new conception of fair decision processes in health financing. It argues that such procedural fairness can contribute to fairer outcomes, strengthen the legitimacy of decision processes, build trust in authorities, and promote the sustainability of reforms on the path to health coverage for all.
Progress towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC) requires making difficult trade-offs. In this journal, Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO Director-General, has endorsed the principles for making such decisions put forward by the WHO Consultative Group on Equity and UHC. These principles include maximizing population health, priority for the worse off, and shielding people from health-related financial risks. But how should one apply these principles in particular cases and how should one adjudicate between them when their demands conflict? This paper by some (...) members of the Consultative Group and a diverse group of health policy professionals addresses these questions. It considers three stylized versions of actual policy dilemmas. Each of these cases pertains to one of the three principal dimensions of progress towards UHC: which services to cover first, which populations to prioritize for coverage, and how to move from out-of-pocket expenditures to pre-payment with pooling of funds. Our cases are simplified to highlight common trade-offs. While we make specific recommendations, our primary aim is to demonstrate both the form and substance of the reasoning involved in striking a fair balance between competing interests on the road to UHC. (shrink)
BackgroundIn precision medicine biomarkers stratify patients into groups that are offered different treatments, but this may conflict with the principle of equal treatment. While some patient characteristics are seen as relevant for unequal treatment and others not, it is known that they all may influence treatment decisions. How biomarkers influence these decisions is not known, nor is their ethical relevance well discussed.MethodsWe distributed an email survey designed to elicit treatment preferences from Norwegian doctors working with cancer patients. In a forced-choice (...) conjoint analysis pairs of hypothetical patients were presented, and we calculated the average marginal component effect of seven individual patient characteristics, to estimate how each of them influence doctors’ priority-setting decisions.ResultsA positive biomarker status increased the probability of being allocated the new drug, while older age, severe comorbidity and reduced physical function reduced the probability. Importantly, sex, education level and smoking status had no significant influence on the decision.ConclusionBiomarker status is perceived as relevant for priority setting decisions, alongside more well-known patient characteristics like age, physical function and comorbidity. Based on our results, we discuss a framework that can help clarify whether biomarker status should be seen as an ethically acceptable factor for providing unequal treatment to patients with the same disease. (shrink)