Bioethics Experts Available on Influenza, Vaccination, and Pandemics*

The first doses of vaccine for H1N1 influenza (swine flu) have just been released by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to news reports, physicians are inundated by requests for the vaccine.

However, the logistics of and priorities for distributing the vaccines are not completely worked out, and some people have safety concerns. The Hastings Center has resources and experts available on the ethical issues involved.

Hastings Center scholar Nancy Berlinger, PhD, is the coauthor of The Five People You Meet in a Pandemic—and What They Need from You Today. This peer-reviewed backgrounder, based on a meeting of 18 bioethics, public health, and scientific experts held at The Hastings Center, presents an ethical framework for pandemic planners. The backgrounder includes flu facts and extensive resources, and provides examples of five representative people around whom resource sharing decisions might be made, ranging from the triage doctor to the truck driver carrying supplies.

She can be reached at, or by calling Mike Turton at 845-424-4040, ext. 242.

The Center's Bioethics Briefing Book has a chapter, “Influenza Pandemic,” by Howard Markel, MD, PhD, director, Center for the History of Medicine, University of Michigan, and Alexandra Minna Stern, PhD, associate director, Center for the History of Medicine, University of Michigan. Dr. Markel is the author of When Germs Travel: Six Epidemics That Invaded America Since 1900 and the Fears They Unleashed. The chapter examines how communities can apply measures such as quarantine in a manner that maximizes the common good and minimizes negative social and economic consequences, as well as the ethical implications of balancing individual liberties with the need to protect the public's health.

Dr. Markel can be reached at 734-647-6914 or; Dr. Stern can be reached at 734-647-6914 or

Another chapter, “Disaster Planning and Public Health,” by Bruce Jennings, MA, director of the Center for Humans and Nature and a Hastings Center Fellow, notes that with few exceptions, there is no explicit reference to ethical issues in federal and state pandemic plans. The chapter outlines seven ethical goals for public health emergency preparedness and response.

Mr. Jennings can be reached at 212-362-7170 or
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