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John Authers

Vaccine Confronts Humanity With Next Moral Test

Who gets coronavirus protection first (and last)? Who profits (and loses)? What is “informed consent” (if it exists)? Divided societies face agonizing choices.

A lot to think about.

A lot to think about.

Photographer: Siphiwe Sibeko/Pool/AFP via Getty Images


The coronavirus pandemic has stress-tested the world. Beyond challenging human fortitude, national health services and international rivalries, it has forced a series of moral choices. Many have provoked impassioned disagreement — over whether governments can force businesses and schools to close, over sacrifices for the sake of the elderly and, most bitterly and surprisingly, over whether being asked to wear a simple face mask infringes individual liberty.

The toughest moral test lies ahead. The biomedical industry and research facilities around the world are progressing toward creating a vaccine that would offer the best chance to end the pandemic and return life to normal. But the moral dilemmas provoked by the development and distribution of a vaccine will drive ever deeper debates.