An October 6th Wall Street Journal article asks “If we must ration vaccines for a flu, who gets the shots?” Currently, the U.S. gives children, the elderly, and the sick priority in obtaining flu shots. Journalist Sharon Begley of the WSJ wonders if this is the best policy:
“In May, scientists at the National Institutes of Health stirred things up with a paper calling into question the policy that aims to save the most lives by first vaccinating the old, the very young and the sick, putting last those who are two to 64 years of age.
The value of a life, they argued, depends on age. A 60-year-old has invested a lot (measured by education and experience) in his life, but has also reaped most of the returns. A child has minimal investment. A 20-year-old has great investment but has reaped almost none of the returns. Conclusion: To maximize investment in a life plus years of life left, 13- to 40-year-olds should have first claim on rationed vaccine, explains NIH’s Ezekiel Emanuel.”
The article wisely goes on to state that not only does the economic value of a life matter, but the probability that the vaccine will be effective is also important to consider.