Ethics Panel Examines Priority for Flu Shots

DECEMBER 01, 2004

In the wake of the flu vaccine shortage, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention has established a permanent panel of ethicists on vaccine distribution. The responsibility of the panel is to help navigate the life-and-death questions of who should receive the flu vaccines and how the agency should handle any future epidemics.

A question the group may eventually come up against is whether babies should have priority over seniors in receiving the flu vaccine, or vice versa. Also, in the event of a pandemic, should members of crucial professions receive preferential treatment? In broad terms, the ethics committee has already agreed that only the very young, the very old, and the chronically ill should receive this year's supply.

State and local officials have argued that the limited supplies are so bad that they do not have enough to vaccinate everyone in those categories. These officials said they want better guidance from the CDC as to who is the highest of the high-risk.