Funder priority for vaccines: Implications of a weak Lockean claim.
Muralidharan A., Schaefer GO., Johnson T., Savulescu J.
The development of some COVID-19 vaccines by private companies like Moderna and Sanofi-GSK has been substantially funded by various governments. While the Sanofi CEO has previously suggested that countries that fund this development ought to be given some priority, this suggestion has not been taken seriously in the literature. Considerations of nationalism, sustainability, need, and equitability have been more extensively discussed with respect to whether and how much a country is entitled to advance purchase orders of the vaccine under conditions of absolute scarcity. Yet, little attention has been paid to whether prior investment into developing a vaccine entitles a country to some priority with respect to these orders. Moreover, while not a majority view, some survey results show that a significant minority of the populace does endorse some view like this. This article argues that the minority have a point: recognizing funder countries some priority is justified by the weak Lockean claim (WLC). According to the WLC, the fact that someone has contributed to the development of something gives them some entitlement to the resultant product. This article will defend the WLC, and address objections to the argument, including those pertaining to questions of historical injustice and medical need. This argument does not imply an unconstrained entitlement. Rather, contribution to development is one morally relevant factor that must be tempered by and weighed against potentially more substantial claims to priority based on need, equity, and other considerations.