Fair global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines: the role of firms
Govind Persad, Assistant Professor, U. of Denver Sturm College of Law
During the COVID-19 emergency, all parties involved in developing and distributing COVID-19 vaccine need guidance on their ethical obligations. We focus on pharmaceutical companies’ obligations to research, develop, manufacture, and distribute COVID-19 vaccines because these companies’ unique capacities in these areas make them indispensable to stemming the pandemic.
We delineate four ethical principles governing the response to COVID, recognizing that, without additional institutional arrangements, they alone do not fully specify pharmaceutical companies’ obligations. The optimal response to COVID-19 would satisfy four uncontroversial principles: (1) optimizing vaccine production, including development, testing, manufacturing, and distribution; (2) fair distribution; (3) sustainability; and (4) accountability. The first three are substantive principles and the last is a procedural principle governing the substantive principles’ implementation.
We then outline a range of approaches that companies could take in the current pandemic, in order to satisfy these principles’ demands and discharge their obligations.