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CPLB Dilemma #4: the ethics of vaccine allocation by employers

April 15 2021

The fourth edition of CPLB Dilemmas is now online. This edition discusses the ethics of vaccine allocation by employers, when employers are given vaccines to allocate.

After an overview of the dilemma by CPLB’s Monica Magalhaes and Nir Eyal, Helen Frowe of Stockholm University connects permissible patterns of vaccine allocation by employers to the potential reasons why an employer might have been given vaccines to allocate, and cautions that, if there are multiple reasons, they may support conflicting patterns of allocation. Brian Berkey of the University of Pennsylvania argues that, because employers are allocating a public resource, their allocation decisions must serve public ends. CPLB’s Bastian Steuwer sees some leeway for employers to use vaccination to serve their own ends, within the limits of what can be publicly justified. James Goodrich of Rutgers University and Stockholm University challenges the common assumption that employers can and should vaccinate only their employees, by showing that potential justifications for vaccinating employees may also commit the employer to include clients (or specific types of clients, such as students) or the surrounding community in their allocation schemes. CPLB’s Mark Budolfson return to the question of who should be included in employers’ vaccination efforts, with an argument that employers have obligations to include retirees and contract laborers alongside full-time employees.

Dilemmas is a section of the CPLB website devoted to conversations on pressing normative questions of health policy and population health. Dilemmas will bring together contributions from a diversity of disciplinary perspectives, including those of population-level bioethics, medicine, epidemiology, economics, health policy, philosophy, law, and others. Rather than attempting to converge on a consensus, the goal is to think together about a hard question relating to ethics and health.