My Patients Need Me. Can I Quit?

I live in a city that provides Kovid vaccines to volunteers who have worked 15 hours at the vaccination site. Not surprisingly, demand for volunteer slots exceeds supply. I got my first shot last week. I have more volunteer changes for the next few weeks. Should I leave those shifts to others, so that they can be vaccinated? Does the answer change if I am assured that my shift will go to friends whom I know are also hardworking volunteers? I feel an obligation to continue volunteering because a) I do not want to disappear now that I have a vaccine; And b) even after taking just one pill, it is probably safer for me to interact with patients (who are older or otherwise unsafe) who have not been vaccinated. However, I also feel duty bound to vaccinate someone else. Elaine, Dallas

You were vaccinated Not to rush you to volunteer, but to make your shifts safe for you and your service. Stopping now reduces that purpose. You are considering stopping so that someone else can be vaccinated. But someone will get the dose that you do. You have prepared yourself the question in terms of “duty to vaccinate another”. But suppose you asked if it was okay to game the system to favor one or two of your friends. I am sure the prospect will not sit well with you.

Giving special weight to you and you does not mean that you can ignore the moral demands of others.

By the logic of this “duty”, you should spend the minimum amount of time working on site to vaccinate each of your hardworking friends and then pass the opportunity along to the other. Your duty is, in fact, to do your job and recognize that the vaccination program does not exist for the benefit of the people who work there. Volunteering was a gift; But if you consider this work to be vaccinated for friends who are not otherwise eligible, it is in danger of becoming a crack. You can only exclude vaccine supplements from those who have been declared eligible by a system of vaccine delivery that seeks to achieve a variety of purposes. People who work at the vaccination site to receive special treatment for their friends is not one of those objectives.


In my state, and possibly elsewhere, food-bank volunteers receive priority over the coronovirus vaccine. Is it ethical to start voluntarily in a food bank to get vaccinated as soon as possible? Name Canonical, Somerville, Mass.

Best type People do what is right for the best reasons. Ethical saints will serve voluntarily in the food bank as it is a way of serving the underprivileged in their community. You are accepting that you are not the right person. But voluntarily for the food bank, even if for less-commendable reasons, is still a good thing. Once again, vaccination is not a byproduct of that good work; It is necessary to reduce the likelihood of people (including you) getting infected in the food bank. Nevertheless, it can also be an incentive to sign up, as people in your community clearly know, and under these circumstances, it is very unlikely that you will get loads of unmarried kudos to show. Do you then struggle for a job to carousel among your otherwise vaccinated-unfit friends, however, you will be abusing the system. If your objectives are self-serving, then make sure your actions are above board.


Kwame Anthony Appiah Teaches philosophy at NYU. His books include “Cosmopolitanism,” “Honor Code” and “The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity”. To submit a query: send an email to ethicist@nytimes.com; Or send mail to The Ethicist, The New York Times Magazine, 620 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10018. (Include a daytime phone number.)

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