“What it turns out to be is the privilege and power to access the vaccine,” said Dr. William Moss, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said.
Nancy Berlinger, a research scholar at The Hastings Center, a nonprofit brainstorm, agrees. ‘This is a rather problematic example [the vaccine] go to the GDPs first rather than rank. “You can imagine people watching it closely,” she said.
Vaccinations against Covid-19 are largely seen as a way out of a pandemic that has wreaked havoc worldwide in recent years, but currently there is very little stock. In the United States, two – one developed by Moderna and the other by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer in collaboration with BioNTech – were approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in early December, and a number of vaccines are still in the works. prospect.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 12 million doses of the two vaccines have been distributed to states so far, and nearly 2.6 million doses have actually been administered, mostly to health care workers and long-term care residents. facilities – the two groups in the CDC’s recommended first level for vaccination prioritization.
In a statement issued by the company, Moderna explained that it was making the shot available to its workers in the United States through a voluntary and confidential program ‘to provide an extra layer of COVID-19 protection’ because Moderna workers provide essential services in the development, manufacture and delivery of the vaccine.
As for the adult household members of the team, the reason is “to reduce the risk of absence and disruption due to a COVID-19 infection in an adult household member.”
In an email to CNN, a Moderna spokesman said: “We have dedicated specific volumes to the US government, and we expect to meet those commitments, so these are doses that are greater than those commitments and sales. ” He noted that Moderna has about 1,200 employees.
This is in contrast to Pfizer, a global wrestling ball with nearly 90,000 employees. According to a statement sent to CNN on Monday, “Pfizer plans to vaccinate its employees as groups are eligible according to the CDC guidelines. The first group is expected to be the company’s most important workers, especially in “the manufacturing, which is critical to the vaccination of the vaccine, and the continued supply of all Pfizer medicines. There is no plan to prioritize the vaccination of our managers or board members over other high-risk groups.”
In an interview in mid-December, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC that while he is very excited to be vaccinated when it’s his turn, he does not want to be seen cutting the line. However, he said that one circumstance that would lead to him being vaccinated early would help increase public confidence in its safety.
But that does not apply to other Pfizer employees. “We have made the decision that if we have to do it, we will not do it with our managers. None of the managers or board members will cut the line; they will take it as is their age and occupation type,” Bourla says.
Although none of the experts CNN spoke for this story thought that the number of vaccines that could potentially go to Moderna employees affected the vaccine supply available for general distribution, they said it was a matter of fairness and perception.
“Moderna is trying to reward the board and the company for doing the job of creating vaccines. I’m going to say that it’s prioritized out of gratitude. I understand that; I understand the desire to do that,” said bioethicist Arthur Caplan.
But Caplan, director of the Division of Medical Ethics at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and an analyst at CNN, still doesn’t think it will pass the sniff test.
“In general, it is my opinion that you are trying to stay with the high-risk people and get agreement on who they are and get them done: nursing home people, health workers. I think this is the right way to become the role model of the “Manufacturers of vaccines. I’m not even happy that so many politicians are being vaccinated,” he said.
Caplan is an unpaid advisor to Moderna (as well as Janssen, manufacturer of another vaccine candidate), but has not advised Moderna on this.
The company may argue that those involved in the manufacture of vaccines should be considered as essential workers.
‘I am concerned about the priority of the councilors [but] not the employees who manufacture the vaccine, ”Moss said.
Mossel says that board members usually have the type of work “where it is very easy to work remotely and protect yourself. In certain other types of work that are essential, it is impossible to [work remotely], and this includes health workers in the front line, but also the bus drivers, the teachers, people who work in grocery stores. ‘
“Vaccination, manufacturing is obviously an essential industry during a pandemic that will only be ended by the development, manufacture, distribution of the vaccine – that’s pretty clear,” Berlinger said.
‘However, we are in a time of limited supply, and we have to prioritize … in a very large country. [It’s] It is important to keep in mind that we should not merge an essential industry with a high-risk environment. This means that not everyone involved in the manufacture or distribution of a vaccine has a high risk of getting Covid or getting serious Covid, ‘she said.
Berlinger, who is lead author of The Hastings Center’s ethical framework for healthcare institutions responsive to Covid-19, said the situation in Moderna offers an ‘ethical test’ to people who have access and can jump in line. “Should you use your access? Should you jump in if you have a chance?”
“If you can protect yourself, you have to wait your turn, because this is one of those situations where the more people who use their access to get to the top of the queue, it’s actually starting to slow down for other people,” she said. .
Caplan also comes on the side of anticipation.
“If I were them, I would say, ‘No thank you, I’ll wait until my turn. “This is an offer that does not have to be accepted,” Caplan said. “If you’re going to accept the offer, you want to be ready to stand in front of a nursing home resident or a high-risk health worker and say, ‘That’s why I feel justified in saying yes.’
Andrea Diaz, Shelby Lin Erdman and Amanda Sealy contributed to this story.