South Carolina is buying enough medicine to cover at least a quarter of its 4.3 million people. The likelihood is high that more than a quarter of its population could get sick from the first wave alone.
So the question is; who should receive the vaccine first? The answer to this ethical question could decide who lives and who dies. South Carolina's state epidemiologist, Dr. Jerry Gibson points out some of the main ethical issues when planning for a pandemic:
1. Who gets to decide what is done, and how?
2. How do you make sure more good than harm is done?
3. How do you minimize the harm done, while trying to do good?
Some ways in deciding who gets the limited medicine may include:
People could be chosen randomly, but this wouldn't necessary treat the sickest or the most likely to survive. Those with occupations considered to be critical to public health, could receive the vaccination first. But who gets to decide what those are? Federal recommendations call for those who are hospitalized with the flu and front-line health care workers. Lower on the list are outpatients and workers in other critical areas. Civil liberties questions could arise too.
Some folks may be isolated or quarantined. Will this violate their individual rights? Who will take care of their medical, food and other needs?
Will people get a chance to say how they will be affected by restrictions or provisions, during the pre-planning stage? Last summer a pandemic in each county was held and included people from business, schools, ethnic minorities and other groups.
How will you provide folks with the opportunity to "speak up" on issues involving possible ethical dilemmas?
For additional information on Pandemic preparedness from a business continuity perspective, please feel free to contact Pitsel & Associates Ltd. Calgary, Alberta, (403) 245-0550. “The time to plan is when you have time to plan.”