And so the waiting game begins.
It has now been several weeks since the province started vaccinating British Columbians against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
While there are a small minority of Canadians who will refuse a vaccine outright, a significant majority are eager to get in line according to an Ispos/Radio-Canada poll published in early December. We are going to have to be patient, however, as is going to be months before innoculations are available to the population at large.
There are, of course, myriad considerations, both ethical and practical, that go into the prioritization decision-making process.
Foremost among these is ‘distributive justice,’ which can more simply be framed as fairness.
At its core, this principle means that everyone matters equally and should be treated equally.
Of course, that is simply not possible when resources are limited, in this case, both the supply of doses and the people to administer them.
In such a situation, it is the principle of equity that must guide decision-making. In other words, limited resources should be preferentially offered to the people who will, and from whom society at large will, derive the greatest benefit.
As such, it is logical, right and good that first in line are: residents, staff and essential visitors to long-term care and assisted-living residences; individuals in hospital or community awaiting a long-term care placement; health care workers providing care for COVID-19 patients in settings such as intensive care units, emergency departments, medical/surgical units and paramedics; and remote and isolated First Nations communities.
There appears to be one glaring exception to this equity principle. Among the first people in the province to roll up her sleeve was Dr. Bonnie Henry.
While Dr. Henry is the public face of B.C.’s COVID-19 response, she does not qualify under any of the above categories and, as such, has already received criticism for jumping the queue.
Consider this, however. In the Ipsos poll, 64 per cent of respondents were ready to receive the vaccine, while 16 per cent said they would not under any circumstance get it. That leaves 20 per cent who are undecided or ‘vaccine-hesitant.’
Since society at large derives the greatest benefit from as many people being vaccinated as possible, and, since these vaccines are our best hope for returning to some semblance of normalcy in 2021, Dr. Henry demonstrating her confidence in them could indeed have significant benefit.
Meanwhile, the rollout is proceeding in an orderly, ethical manner and we will all have our turn soon enough.