People should be paid to have a COVID-19 jab so the country reaches herd immunity as quickly as possible, a leading ethicist has suggested.
Professor Julian Savulescu from the University of Oxford said incentives would help to overcome rising vaccine hesitancy due to perceived safety concerns.
People could either be given a financial inducement to have the jab or they could be paid in kind, perhaps foregoing the need to wear a facemask in public, he writes in the Journal of Medical Ethics.
“The advantage of payment for risk is that people are choosing voluntarily to take it on,” he says.
“As long as we are accurate in conveying the limitations in our confidence about the risks and benefits of a vaccine, then it is up to individuals to judge whether they are worth payment.”Advertisement
To achieve herd immunity, which would stop the coronavirus spreading and end the epidemic, somewhere between 50 and 80% of the population would have to be protected.
Prof Savulescu says that there is a case for mandatory vaccination because of the “grave” threat to public health.
Coercion for the public good is already accepted in wearing seat belts and conscription during wartime.
But he says mandatory vaccination would be unethical without first knowing a jab was completely safe.
“However, another way of looking at this is that those at low risk are being asked to do a job which entails some risk, albeit a very low one,” he argues.
“So they should be paid for the risk they are taking for the sake of providing a public good.”
Any vaccine will have been tested on tens of thousands of people before being rolled out. But rare side effects may remain.
“It may be those who are poorer may be more inclined to take the money and the risk, but this applies to all risky or unpleasant jobs in a market economy,” he says.
“It is not necessarily exploitation if there are protections in place such as a minimum wage or a fair price is paid to take on risk.”