The Ethics of Vaccine Line Cutting

Written by Martin

Visual by Zoe

Edited by Joaquin

After a year following a series of arduous quarantines, we are finally in the midst of a slowly progressing vaccine rollout. One of the most common challenges encountered in vaccine rollouts throughout the world is the issue of “line-cutting”, whereupon well-connected, privileged individuals are vaccinated well before patients who are at extreme risk of COVID-19. This issue is extremely prevalent in countries with an ongoing rollout. In the United States, there have been numerous instances of controversial vaccine tourism, and in the Philippines, there have been countless cases of document falsification and line-cutting regarding the distribution of vaccines. While vaccine rollouts are a frustratingly show phase of the current worldwide pandemic, line-cutting is an inhumane, unethical act of greed that further serves to aggravate the challenges of COVID-19.

One of the most common forms of line-cutting is through a phenomenon known as “vaccine tourism” when groups of people travel to different locations in search of readily available vaccines. This phenomenon was widely reported in areas around the United States. According to data recorded by the state of Florida, around 40,000 non-residents had been vaccinated. Most of the vaccinated non-residents at the time included several wealthy foreign families and a group of Argentinian executives. While getting vaccinated isn’t necessarily considered unethical, the issues of vaccine tourism provide harmful implications for local residents who are at risk of illness and even death. Damaging practices such as vaccine tourism may indirectly supply precious quantities of medicine to privileged wealthy travellers, as opposed to patients who are severely endangered by the looming threat of COVID-19. Individuals must respect local vaccine lines and elect to cope with the strenuous process of vaccine rollouts to prevent this from happening. 

Some methods of vaccine line-cutting are also prevalent throughout other corners of the world. Here in the Philippines, a group of individuals have resorted to more upfront methods of unethically acquiring vaccinations. Some people have falsified medical documents, and have even entirely ignored vaccination priority groups. In particular, a local actor had ignored guidelines and had elected to take the vaccine ahead of essential healthcare and service workers by using his political connections, in violation of local policies. Actions such as these not only put other patients at risk but also hinder efforts against the pandemic.

On the other hand, line-cutting can also be seen as a symptom of unequal vaccine distribution and government inaction. In some cases, perpetrators of line-cutting may be victims in areas with a lack of vaccine supply, or simply, individuals who seek a quick return to their normal lives. 

Regardless, those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic must exercise great caution in the acquisition of the slowly-growing number of vaccines. Line cutting must be minimised to ensure that the pandemic is dealt with swiftly and effectively.

Works Cited:

De Leon, Dwight. “DILG: Parañaque Mayor Should Explain Why Actor, Councilor Cut Vaccine Line.” Rappler, Rappler, 25 Mar. 2021, http://www.rappler.com/nation/dilg-asks-paranaque-mayor-why-mark-anthony-fernandez-councilor-cut-line. 

Lalu, Gabriel Pabico. “9 Questioned on Suspicion of Using Fake Docs for COVID-19 Vaccination in Manila.” INQUIRER.net, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 5 Apr. 2021, newsinfo.inquirer.net/1414730/6-chinese-3-pinoys-accosted-for-alleged-use-of-fake-docs-in-seeking-covid-19-vaccines. 

Siemaszko, Corky. “Vaccine Tourism on the Rise as Wealthy International Tourists Eye an Opportunity in the U.S.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 26 Jan. 2021, http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/vaccine-tourism-rise-wealthy-international-tourists-eye-opportunity-u-s-n1255531.