Youths and Adults First for Flu?

In today’s Science magazine policy forum, Ezekiel Emanuel and Alan Wertheimer of The Clinical Center, at NIH in Bethesda, Maryland, argue that should a [bird] flu pandemic emerge, any time soon, then, they say, priority should go to people between early adolescence and middle age.

Their argument is based on the idea that every one of us should have the opportunity to live through all life stages. They suggest that this offers the best balance of the amount the person has invested in his or her life with their time left to live should this virtual disease prove closely to 100% fatal without vaccination.

Their suggestion contrasts starkly with current recommendations for vaccinating people in the event of a flu pandemic which involves prioritizing vaccination of health workers and the elderly ill at the very top and healthy people aged two through 64 at the very bottom. The pair recommend incorporating another ethical principle that focuses on ensuring safety and the provision of food and fuel. What’s most intriguing about their argument, however, is that their ethical framework is intended to be applied only to the USA and not the whole world. The Science press release pertaining to this suggestion, simply says that this “would then involve more complex issues of global rationing.”

So, what do sciencebase readers think? Who’d care to draw up the list?