Vaccine ethics.

I will not be writing about the ethics of not getting vaccinated when you have no medical reason not to do so. That is, in my book, reprehensible behavior, given that a person who does so places others at risk. They keep ranting about “freedom,” where is the rhetoric about “responsibility”?

No, my concern here has to do with those of us who do get vaccinated.

The FDA has okayed booster shots for adults in certain categories, and may well authorize booster shots for all adults. Is this ethical? Many people don’t think so, and believe that rich countries should make vaccine doses available to poor countries before they offer a third dose to their own citizens. The protection afforded by even one dose is more significant than the increased protection offered by a third dose.

It makes a certain amount of moral sense. It’s the inverse of the responsibility to get vaccinated when available. By using vaccines ourselves rather than distributing doses more widely, we are abrogating any responsibility we have to the rest of the world. (By “us” I mean wealthy countries, not merely the US.)

It makes epidemiological sense as well: when COVID rages in places where vaccines are not available, the virus mutates. Some of these mutations will undoubtedly be more virulent and more effective against the vaccines. The Delta variant, much more contagious than the original virus, developed in India during a time when COVID was running unchecked.

That said, when a booster became available (I have preexisting conditions which allowed me to get it early), did I avail myself of the opportunity to get one? Damn straight I did.

What are our responsibilities? I am not worried that I am taking away a dose from someone in this country, given the widespread hesitancy about the COVID vaccines. There seem to be plenty of doses to go around.

I tell myself that these doses will not be shipped anywhere else, anyway, so I should go ahead and protect myself. (I got Pfizer, which shows a greater dropoff in efficacy than Moderna.) But on the other hand, I have not contacted my elected officials to urge them to increase the availability of the vaccines to other countries.

Does this make me a bad person? I don’t think so. I think self-preservation is a valid cause for action. That said, I think the rich countries should relax patent protections for the vaccines (paying the companies in question if necessary) so poorer countries can manufacture their own doses.

Because that is a matter of enlightened self-interest.

God, I will be so glad when this disease reduces itself to flu levels so I can stop worrying about this stuff.

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