Rethinking the ethics of vaccination

Grant number: COV19\200862

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Key facts

  • Disease

  • Known Financial Commitments (USD)

  • Funder

    British Academy
  • Principle Investigator

  • Research Location

    United Kingdom, Europe
  • Lead Research Institution

    University of Cambridge, Department of History and Philosophy of Science
  • Research Category

    Research to inform ethical issues

  • Research Subcategory

    Research to inform ethical issues related to Public Health Measures

  • Special Interest Tags


  • Study Subject


  • Clinical Trial Details


  • Broad Policy Alignment


  • Age Group


  • Vulnerable Population


  • Occupations of Interest



Politicians and epidemiologists often claim that developing a Covid-19 vaccination is key to combating the pandemic. However, vaccine development and distribution raises difficult ethical questions: how certain must we be that vaccines are safe before using them in the general population? How should we choose whom to vaccinate when we can't vaccinate everyone? Should we make vaccination mandatory? As the high-profile MMR case exemplifies, these problems intersect with public vaccine hesitancy, and, therefore, public trust in science. These challenges will be even more significant in the case of a Covid-19 vaccine, which will be developed in haste, probably in short supply, and administered against a general backdrop of fear and suspicion. This project aims to use existing philosophical work on vaccination to think through the principles for ethical development and distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine, with the aim of contributing to policies which are fair, effective and trustworthy.