In an opinion piece that was recently accepted for publication in the “Journal of Medical Ethics,” a leading ethicist argues that governments across the world should consider incentivizing individuals to get a coronavirus jab when the vaccine comes on the market. This will help reach the needed level of herd immunity. This may make up at least 80% of the population and will help eliminate the infection.
The incentive may be payment in kind or financial. Professor Julian Savulescu, the author of the piece, points out that with the rising worldwide death toll and the extensive economic and health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, many are calling for the coronavirus vaccination to be mandatory.
Generally, he says, vaccination is voluntary. However, if people don’t voluntarily get vaccinated, they may resort to vaccination plan B. This approach may include coercion for the public good and implementing mandatory vaccination policies. If a mandatory approach was to be used, he argues that ethical issues are bound to come up.
So if people don’t take to voluntary vaccination, governments should look into incentivization while increasing vaccination uptake. To make any vaccination program effective, a certain uptake level is needed. This will help rid us of the coronavirus pandemic.
Savulescu writes that for the vaccine to be most effective, about 82% of the population would need to be vaccinated, and despite the more obvious issues of manufacturing and administering a coronavirus vaccine to the global population, vaccine hesitancy seems to be on the rise. This is mainly because of safety concerns. Even with the lack of a vaccine in the market, many are already refusing or showing reluctance about getting vaccinated.
Vaccination is likely to be an even bigger issue when a new vaccine does reach the market. Therefore, any compulsory vaccination program would be required to make a value judgement about what level of certainty and safety are certain and safe enough. Savulescu explained that it was difficult to say if a mandatory coronavirus vaccination policy was ethically justified until scientists could evaluate the vaccine’s nature and the likely benefits and costs of alternatives.
He adds that while anti-vaxxers may never be convinced to shift their stance on all things vaccination, vaccine incentivization may convince other individuals who may have not yet gotten the jab to do so. Savulescu continues, explaining that incentivization isn’t encouraging individuals to take unreasonable risks. However, it makes economic sense to pay people to incentivize them to vaccinate.
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