KIE Acting Director Provides Ethical Guidance for District of Columbia COVID-19 Vaccination Plan

KIE Acting Director Dr. Daniel Sulmasy met with staff of the DC Department of Health and their Scientific Advisory Committee to provide ethical analysis and guidance for distributing the COVID-19 vaccine. The initial limited supply of vaccine doses means that fewer individuals will get vaccinated when the first vaccines become available. 

The geographical location of the District of Columbia between Maryland and Virginia disposes the region to population movement throughout all three jurisdictions. Due to the District’s workforce living outside of the District, the initial allocation of COVID-19 vaccines must be justified by DC’s workforce population and not just the District’s residential population.  

In the letter to the DC Department of Health, Dr. Sulmasy provides a formal ethical analysis for the rationing of vaccines. The justification for designating frontline healthcare workers as the initial vaccine recipients, Sulmasy argues, should not be based on considerations of the social worth of healthcare professionals but instead it should be based on patient-centered reasons. 

His analysis largely supported the conclusions of The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine plan for an ethical and equitable phased approach to COVID-19 vaccine allocation, but provided an alternative set of ethical justifications that would first secure the health care infrastructure and then protect the most vulnerable. 

“Above all, it should be noted that this phasing is not a plan for who should get the vaccine and who should not, but how to sequentially deliver a vaccine that eventually everyone should receive. The temporal sequencing is guided by concern for the common good—how to roll it out in ways that are designed to help the community as a whole,” Sulmasy said.

Read the Executive Summary Here. 

Read the entire Draft Plan Here (Dr. Sulmasy’s letter begins on page 63)

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