Pandemic Ethics

Pandemics present a number of daunting ethical challenges to the economic and social wellbeing of any country, as well as a serious risk to the health of its population.  Sensible and proportionate preparation and response by the government, businesses, the media and communities can help to mitigate its effects, however there are many important ethical issues that need to be considered, such as priority of access to healthcare resources with increased demand and possible shortages; obligations of healthcare workers in light of risks to their own health; and the fine balance between reducing disease spread through isolation and travel measures whilst protecting the right of individuals to freedom of movement.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

On 31 December 2019, The World Health Organization was informed of a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. The coronavirus disease (COVID-2019) was identified as the causative virus by Chinese authorities on 7 January. On 11 March 2020, WHO officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In a little under a year the number of COVID-19 cases surpassed 105 million confirmed cases globally, with more than 2 million deaths reported to WHO.

As of 5 October 2022, there have been 616,427,419 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 6,528,557 deaths.

Below are links to online resources, blogs, interviews etc that OUC Researchers have posted in response to the outbreak.

UK Government

Members of OUC have submitted evidence to Parliamentary committees on COVID-19:

Response to Department of Health and Social Care consultation on ‘Making vaccination a condition of deployment in older adult care homes’
Dr Isra Black (University of York) and Dr Lisa Forsberg (University of Oxford)
Link to written evidence:  PDF
Link to Consultation: (14 April 2021)

Written evidence to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee on 'Covid 19 Vaccine Certification'
Dr Lisa Forsberg (University of Oxford), Dr Isra Black (University of York), Professor Thomas Douglas (University of Oxford)
Link to written evidence:  PDF
Call for evidence: (23 March 2021)

Written evidence from Dr Lisa Forsberg, Dr Melanie Collard, Dr Isra Black, Dr Henrique Carvalho and Dr Anastasia Chamberlen (COV0004)
'COVID-19 and the criminal law' (21 April 2021)
Link to report: COV0004 - Covid-19 and the criminal law

Written evidence from Dr Jonathan Pugh, Dr Lisa Forsberg, and Dr Thomas Douglas (COV0255)
'Restrictions of Liberty in Public Health, Medical Treatment, and Human Rights in The COVID-19 Pandemic'
Link to report:

Written evidence from Dr Lisa Forsberg, Dr Isra Black, Dr Thomas Douglas, Dr Jonathan Pugh (COV0220)
'Compulsory vaccination for Covid-19 and human rights law'
Link to report:

Written evidence from the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities (COV0156)
On maintaining public health whilst upholding human rights 
Contributors from OUC include Dr Jonathan Pugh, Dr Stephen Rainey and Joseph Nguyen
Link to report:

Written evidence from Dr Stephen Rainey (LBC0005)
'Following the Science: to emergency governance, and back again'
Link to report:


World Health Organization Policy Brief 'COVID-19 and mandatory vaccination: Ethical considerations and caveats' (13 April 2021) cites Alberto Giubilini's open access book
Giubilini, A., (2019), 'The Ethics of Vaccination', (Palgrave Macmillan)
Link to policy brief COVID-19 and mandatory vaccination: Ethical considerations and caveats
Link to open access book The Ethics of Vaccination

Exit Statement 'COVID-19: Ethical guidelines for the Exit Strategy'Alberto Giubilini and Julian Savulescu (1 October 2020).
"The UK “Exit Strategy”, which aims at safely easing the restrictions introduced in March 2020 to contain the COVID19 epidemics in the UK, needs to balance different values and priorities, beyond protecting the population from the virus. The task will be made even more difficult by the fact that Exit Strategy will have to be responsive to likely new spikes of COVID-19 cases, if not by an actual second wave of the virus."
Link to Exit Statement PDF.

THIS Institute Report  'Pandemic Ethics: Testing times: An ethical framework and practical recommendations for COVID-19 testing for NHS workers' expert group including Alberto Giubilini (21 July 2020)
The report sought to identify and characterise the ethical considerations likely to be important to the testing programme, while recognising the tension between different values and goals. The project was guided by an expert group and by an online consultation exercise held between 27 May and 8 June 2020 to characterise the range and diversity of views on this topic. The 93 participants in the consultation included NHS workers in clinical and non-clinical roles, NHS senior leaders, policy-makers, and relevant experts. The project report emphasises that getting the COVID-19 swab testing programme for NHS workers right is crucial to support staff and patient safety and broader public health. It also recognises that COVID-19 does not affect all population groups equally. People who are socio-economically disadvantaged or members of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups may face distinctive issues in relation to testing.
Link to report:

World Health Organization Report 'Key criteria for the ethical acceptability of COVID-19 human challenge studies' cites papers by Julian Savulescu, Tom Douglas, Hannah Maslen and Alberto Giubilini (6 May 2020)
Controlled human challenge studies involves the deliberate infection of healthy volunteers.  They are particularly useful for testing multiple vaccine candidates quickly and efficiently, as well as providing data on the processes of transmission, infection and immunity. Aimed at scientists, policy-makers and regulators, the report outlines the criteria that would need to be met for human challenge studies on COVID-19 to be ethically acceptable.
Link to report:

Cited papers

  1. Schaefer G, Tam CC, Savulescu J, Voo TC. Covid-19 vaccine development: time to consider Sars-Cov-2 challenge studies? SSRN Electronic Journal. January 2020. Link to paper on  - SSRN REGISTRATION REQUIRED (FREE)
  2. Bambery B, Douglas T, Selgelid MJ, Maslen H, Giubilini A, Pollard AJ et al. Influenza vaccination strategies should target children. Public Health Ethics. 2018;11(2):221–34. Link to paper on OUP website   - OPEN ACCESS
  3. Bambery B, Selgelid M, Weijer C, Savulescu J, Pollard AJ. Ethical criteria for human challenge studies in infectious diseases. Public Health Ethics. 2015;9(1):92–103. Link to paper on OUP website  - FREE

Savulescu, J., and Wilkinson, D., (Eds.) 2023, Pandemic Ethics: From COVID-19 to Disease X, (Oxford University Press)

Published 1 May 2023

image of pandemic ethics book cover

Oxford University Press

Edited by Julian Savulescu and Dominic Wilkinson

Covers key ethical debates that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic

Includes contrasting perspectives from international experts in philosophy, ethics and economics

Identifies key lessons and suggestions for future pandemics

The COVID-19 pandemic is a defining event of the 21st century. It has taken over eighteen million lives, closed national borders, put whole populations into quarantine and devastated economies.

Yet while COVID-19 is catastrophic, it is not unique. Children who have been home-schooled during COVID-19 will almost certainly face another pandemic in their lifetime - one at least as bad-and potentially much worse-than this one. The WHO has referred to such a future (currently unknown) pathogen as “Disease X”.

The defining feature of a pandemic is its scale-the simultaneous threat to millions or even billions of lives. That scale leads to unavoidable ethical dilemmas since the lives and livelihood of all cannot be protected.

But since one of the most powerful ways of arresting the spread of a pandemic is to reduce contact between people, pandemic ethics also challenges some of our most widely accepted ethical beliefs about individual liberty and autonomy.

Finally, pandemic ethics brings vividly to the foreground debates about the structure of society, inequalities, disadvantage and our global responsibilities.

In this timely and vital collection, Dominic Wilkinson and Julian Savulescu bring together a global team of leading philosophers, lawyers, economists, and bioethicists. The book reviews the COVID-19 pandemic to ask not only 'did our societies make the right ethical choices?', but also 'what lessons must we learn before Disease X arrives?'


Press ReleaseOUP webpage | Amazon


Open Access Chapters

picture of an orange open padlock

We acknowledge the support of the Wellcome Trust and Oxford University Press in making the following chapters freely available:


Bradfield, O. and Giubilini, A., (2021), 'A spoonful of honey or a gallon of vinegar? A conditional COVID-19 vaccination policy for frontline healthcare workers', Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol: 47(7): 467–472 [PMC8257552]

Chuan Voo, T., Savulescu, J., Schaefer, O., Ho Zhi Ling, A. and Tam, C. C., (2022), 'COVID-19 differentiated measures for unvaccinated individuals: The need for clear goals and strong justifications', Vaccine, Vol: 40(36): 5333-5337 [PMC9221926]

Douglas, T., Forsberg, L. and Pugh, J., (2021), 'Compulsory medical intervention versus external constraint in pandemic control', Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol: 47(12) [PMC8639959]

Giubilini, A., Pugh, J., Savulescu, J. and Wilkinson, D., (2022), 'Vaccine mandates for healthcare workers beyond COVID-19', Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol: 49(3): 211-220 [PMC9985724]

Giubilini, A., Minerva, F., Schuklenk, U. and Savulescu, J., (2021), 'The "Ethical" COVID-19 vaccine is the one that reserves lives: religious and moral beliefs on the COVID-19 vaccine', Public Health Ethics, Vol: 14(3): 242-255 [PMC8344725]

Giubilini, A., Savulescu, J. and Wilkinson, D., (2021), 'Which Vaccine? The Cost of Religious Freedom in Vaccination Policy', Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, Vol: 18(4): 609-619 [PMC8696246]

Giubilini, A., Savulescu, J. and Wilkinson, D., (2021 forthcoming), 'Queue questions: Ethics of COVID-19 vaccine prioritization', Bioethics, Vol: 35(4): 348-355 [PMC8013927

Giubilini, A., Savulescu, J. and Wilkinson, D., (2020), 'COVID-19 vaccine: vaccinate the young to protect the old?', Journal of Law and the Biosciences, Vol: 7(1) [PMC7337759]

Muralidharan, A., Schaefer, G. O., Johnson, T. and Savulescu, J., (2022), 'Funder Priority for Vaccines: Implications of a Weak Lockean Claim', Bioethics, Vol: 36(9): 978-988 [PMC9539059]

Pugh, J., Wilkinson, D., Brown, R. and Savulescu, J., (2022), 'The Unnaturalistic Fallacy: COVID vaccine mandates should not discriminate against natural immunity', Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol: 48(6): 371-377 [PMC9132858]

Pugh, J., Wilkinson, D., Kerridge, I. and Savulescu, J., (2022), 'Vaccine Suspension, Risk, and Precaution in a Pandemic', Journal of Law and the Biosciences, Vol: 9(1) [PMC8928173]

Savulescu, J., Giubilini, A. and Danchin, M., (2021), 'Global Ethical Considerations Regarding Mandatory Vaccination in Children', The Journal of Pediatrics, Vol: 231(April): 10-16 [PMC7817402] | Authors' reply to Sprengholz and Betsch response to paperThe Journal of Pediatrics, online (17 August 2021) 

Savulescu, J., (2021), 'Good Reasons to Vaccinate: Mandatory or Payment for Risk?', Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol: 47(2) [PMC7848060]

Schaefer, G,O., Tam, C., Savulescu, J. and  Voo, T. (2020) COVID-19 vaccine development: Time to consider SARS-CoV-2 challenge studies? Vaccine 2020 38,(33): 5085-5088

Wilkinson, D., Finlay, I., Pollard, A., Forsberg, L. and Skelton, A., (2021), 'Should we delay covid-19 vaccination in children?', BMJ, Vol: 374:n1687

Wilkinson, D., (2023), 'The harm principle, personal identity and identity-relative paternalism', Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol: 49(6): 393-402 [PMC10313974]

Exit Strategies

Davies, B. and Savulescu, J., (2022), 'Institutional responsibility is prior to personal responsibility in a pandemic', Journal of Value Inquiry, Vol: 58(2): 215–234 [PMC8721471]

Fritz Z, Huxtable R, Ives J, Paton A, Slowther AM, and Wilkinson D, (2020), Ethical road map through the covid-19 pandemicBMJ 369:m2033

Giubilini, A., (2023), 'Freedom, Diseases, and Public Health Restrictions', Bioethics, Vol: 37(9): 886-896 [PMC10947069]

Giubilini A, and Savulescu J, (2020), Exit Statement COVID-19: Ethical guidelines for the Exit Strategy. (1 October)

Gyngell, C. and Savulescu, J., (2021), 'The ethics of genomic passports: Should the genetically resistant be exempted from lockdowns and quarantines?', Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol: 48(10): 689-694 [PMC9554064]

Levy, N., (2023), 'Echoes of covid misinformation', Philosophical Psychology, Vol: 36(5): 931-948

Levy, N. and Savulescu, J., (2021), 'After the Pandemic: New Responsibilities', Public Health Ethics, Vol: 14(2): Pages 120–133 [PMC7989173]

Motorniak, D., Giubilini, A. and Savulescu, J., (2023), 'Reelin’ in the years: age and selective restriction of liberty in the Covid-19 pandemic', Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, Vol: 20 pp.685-693 [PMC10943133]

Pugh, J., Wilkinson, D. and Savulescu, J., (2022), 'Sense and sensitivity: can an inaccurate test be better than no test at all?', Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol: 48(5): 329-333 [PMC9046741]

Pugh, J, (2020) ‘The United Kingdom’s Coronavirus Act, Deprivations of Liberty, and The Right to Liberty and Security of the Person’. Journal of Law and the Biosciences, Vol: 7(1), January-June 2020

Savulescu, J. and Cameron, J., (2020), 'Why Lock Down of the Elderly Is Not Ageist and Why Levelling Down Equality Is Wrong', Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol: 46(11): 717–721 [PMC7335694]

Williams, B., Cameron, J., Trauer, J., Marais, B., Ragonnet, R. and Savulescu, J., (2021), 'The Ethics of Selective Restriction of Liberty in a Pandemic', Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol: 47(8): 553-562 [PMC8327318]

Resource Allocation

Cameron J, Savulescu J, Wilkinson D. (forthcoming 2021) Is Withdrawing Treatment Really More Problematic than Withholding Treatment? Journal of Medical Ethics, (online First)

Chan, L., Borg, J., Conitzer V, Wilkinson, D., Savulescu, J., Zohny, H. and Sinnott-Armstrong, W., (2022), 'Which features of patients are morally relevant in ventilator triage? A survey of the UK public.', BMC Medical Ethics Vol: 23(1): article 33 [PMC8956145

Dao, B., Savulescu, J., Suen, J., Fraser, J. and Wilkinson, D., (2021), 'Ethical factors determining ECMO allocation during the COVID-19 pandemic', BMC Medical Ethics, Vol: 22(1): 70 [PMC8169422]

Kappes, A., Zohny, H., Savulescu, J., Singh, I., Sinnott-Armstrong, W. and Wilkinson, D., (2022), 'Race and resource allocation: An online survey of US and UK adults’ attitudes towards COVID-19 ventilator and vaccine distribution', BMJ Open, Vol: 12(11):e062561 [PMC9679868]

Palacios‐González, C., Pugh, J., Wilkinson, D. and Savulescu, J., (2022), 'Ethical heuristics for pandemic allocation of ventilators across hospitals', Developing World Bioethics, Vol: 22(1) [PMC7614740]

Pugh, J., Wilkinson, D., Palacios Gonzalez, C. and Savulescu, J., (2021), 'Beyond Individual Triage: Regional Allocation of Life-Saving Resources such as Ventilators in Public Health Emergencies'Health Care Analysis, Vol: 29, pp. 263–282 [PMC7867404]

Pugh, J., Seah, M., Carr, A. and Savulescu, J., (2023), 'Tackling the COVID elective surgical backlog: Prioritising need, benefit or equality?', Clinical Ethics, Vol: 18(4)

Savulescu J, Vergano M, Craxi L, Wilkinson D. An ethical algorithm for rationing life sustaining treatment during the COVID-19 pandemicBritish Journal of Anaesthesia 2020

Savulescu J, Cameron J, Wilkinson D. Equality or utility? Ethics and law of rationing ventilatorsBritish Journal of Anaesthesia 2020  125 (3): 253e258

Savulescu J, Persson I, Wilkinson D. Utilitarianism and the pandemicBioethics 2020. 34(6):620-632

Simon Thomas, E., Peiris, B., Di Stefano, L., Rowland, M. J. and Wilkinson, D., (2021), 'Evaluation of a hypothetical decision-support tool for intensive care triage of patients with COVID-19', Wellcome Open Research, 6-183 [Open Access]

Wilkinson, D., (2021), 'Frailty triage: is rationing intensive medical treatment on the grounds of frailty ethical?', American Journal of Bioethics, Vol: 21(11): 48-63 [PMC8567739]

Zohny, H., Davies, B. and Wilkinson, D., (2022), 'Affirmative action in healthcare resource allocation: Vaccines, ventilators and race', Bioethics, Vol: 36(9): 970-977 [PMC9539241]

Protecting Healthcare Staff

Giubilini, A. and Savulescu, J., (2021), 'Stopping exploitation: properly remunerating healthcare workers for risk in COVID-19 pandemic', Bioethics, Vol: 35(4): 372-379 [PMC8014134]

Gyngell, C., Christodoulou, J. and Savulescu, J., (2021), 'Ethically utilising COVID-19 host-genomic data', npj Genomic Medicine, Vol: 6(1): article 31 [PMC8110518]

McConnell, D., (2021), 'Compensation and hazard pay for key workers during an epidemic: An argument from analogy', Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol: 47(12): 784-787 [PMC8639952]

Immunity Passports

Brown R, Kelly D, Wilkinson D, and Savulescu J, (2020), The Scientific and Ethical Feasibility of Immunity PassportsLancet Infectious Diseases, Online First, subscription required (preprint in Word).

Authors' reply: A public health ethic should inform policies on COVID-19 immunity passports – Authors' reply [preprint in Word] (reply to Françoise Baylis, Natalie Kofler 'A public health ethic should inform policies on COVID-19 immunity passports' response to original article)

Brown R, Savulescu J, Williams B, and Wilkinson D, (2020), A Passport to Freedom? Immunity Passports for COVID-19Journal of Medical Ethics,(46):652-659.

Brown, R., Savulescu, J., Williams, B. and Wilkinson, D., (2020), 'A Passport to Freedom? Immunity Passports for COVID-19', Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol: 46(10)  [OPEN ACCESS]

Savulescu, J, (2021), Provide Vaccines, Not Require Immunity or Vaccination Passports ... For NowJournal of Law, Medicine & Ethics , Vol. 49 , Issue 2: Race and Ethnicity in 21st Century Health Care, Summer 2021, pp. 303 - 306

The Sydney Morning Herald: Daniel D’Hotman (13 December 2022)
Ten psych sessions is not enough after the years we’ve had

Belfast Telegraph: quotes Dominic Wilkinson (16 February 2022)
Djokovic’s libertarian views on Covid jabs ‘will cause harm’, by Ella Pickover

The Spectator: Alberto Giubilini and Julian Savulescu (12 December 2021)
The ethics of the Omicron travel ban

The Guardian: Julian Savulescu (3 December 2021)
Do Covid vaccine mandates work? Growing number of countries are exploring making jabs compulsory, but is it the right approach?

BBC Wales Breakfast (radio): Alberto Giubilini (25 November 2021)
Discussing compulsory vaccines, with Claire Summers [AG contribution starts at approx 1:36:20]

CNBC: Julian Savulescu (24 November 2021)
Are Covid vaccine mandates ethical? Here’s what medical experts think

BBC 5 Live Breakfast 'In My Opinion': Alberto Giubilini (23 November 2021)
Interviewed on subject of compulsory vaccination [AG contribution starts at approx 1:40:30]

Global News Radio Toronto (The Alan Carter Program): Julian Savulescu (16 November 2021)
The ethics behind selective lockdowns (interview arising from article in The Conversation)

Health Europa: Dominic Wilkinson (1 October 2021)
Exploring the issues surrounding vaccinating children against COVID-19

iNews: quotes Julian Savulescu (7 September 2021)
University offers ten £5,000 cash prizes to students who get vaccinated in bid to boost take up

Huffington Post: quotes Dominic Wilkinson (5 July 2021)
Is It Safe To Lift Lockdown When Covid Cases Are Up? England is set to exit lockdown on July 19, but Covid hospitalisations are increasing.

The Week UK: Dominic Wilkinson, Jonathan Pugh and Julian Savulescu (7 June 2021)
The moral questions behind vaccinating children against Covid-19: Pfizer jab has been approved for use in adolescents - but experts caution against immediate rollout

Science Media Centre: Dominic Wilkinson (4 June 2021)
Expert reaction to MHRA extending the UK approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to allows its use in 12- to 15-year-olds

Coverage arising from SMC article includes:

  • Huffington Post (quotes Adam Finn and Dominic Wilkinson) 
  • Independent (quotes Russell Viner and Dominic Wilkinson) 
  • BBC News (quotes Russell Viner and Dominic Wilkinson) 
  • The Guardian (quotes Adam Finn and Dominic Wilkinson) 
  • Mirror (quotes Adam Finn and Dominic Wilkinson 
  • Express (quotes Adam Finn and Dominic Wilkinson)

Voice of America: Julian Savulescu (24 May 2021)
Australia Urged to Offer Cash Incentives to Boost COVID Vaccination Rates

The Conversation: Lisa Forsberg & Anthony Skelton (13 May 2021)
3 reasons for making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for children
This article won a prize in the American Philosophical Association's 2022 Public Philosophy Op-Ed Contest.

i News: Alberto Giubilini (11 May 2021)
NHS frontline jobs ‘should be conditional on Covid vaccination’
References Owen Bradfield's and Alberto Giubilini's open access paper 'A spoonful of honey or a gallon of vinegar? A conditional COVID-19 vaccination policy for frontline healthcare workers', Journal of Medical Ethics (online first 11 May)

The Age: Julian Savulescu (9 May 2021)
Beervax or bust: Let’s pay people to be vaccinated

LBC Radio: Alberto Giubilini (27 April 2021)
Alberto Giubilini on sending vaccines to India

Sky News: quotes Alberto Giubilini (30 April 2021)
COVID-19: India's vaccine export ban could send shockwaves worldwide. Should the UK step in to help?

Lex-Atlas: Covid-19: Tom Douglas (29 April 2021)
An in-principle case for mandatory vaccination [LAC19 is a global academic project mapping legal responses to Covid-19]

The Conversation: Julian Savulescu, Dominic Wilkinson, Jonathan Pugh and Margie Danchin (25 March 2021)
There’s no need to pause vaccine rollouts when there’s a safety scare. Give the public the facts and let them decide

Corriere della Sera: Alberto Giubilini (20 March 2021)
Interview on vaccination and lockdown (in Italian) 'Vaccinarsi è una responsabilità etica, e per questo dovrebbe essere un obbligo'

The Conversation: Jonathan Pugh and Dominic Wilkinson (11 March 2021)
COVID vaccines: is it wrong to jump the queue?

The Brussels Times: Tom Douglas (27 February 2021)
There is no fundamental ethical objection to vaccine passports
Should we all be required to produce a ‘vaccine passport’—proving that we have been vaccinated against Covid-19 — before being allowed to enter a cafe, travel abroad, or work in a high-risk job? 

Chemistry World: cites Dominic Wilkinson (24 February 2021)
Green light for world’s first Sars-CoV-2 studies that will infect healthy volunteers

The Daily Mail: cites Dominic Wilkinson (20 February 2021)
Expert warns of ‘fundamental ethical concerns’ over vaccine passports and says they risk ‘creating false sense of security’
However Professor Wilkinson, who also appeared on the programme, believes there is a 'strong ethical case' for exploring the prospect of vaccine passports.

The Telegraph: Julian Savulescu and Abie Rohrig (12 February 2021)
Covid-19 human challenge trials will play a crucial role in vaccinating the developing world
The studies help to create better vaccines to immunise the world's poorest, as well as expanding global supply

UrduPoint News/Sputnik: Alberto Giubilini (9 February 2021)
Lower Vaccine Efficacy Against New COVID-19 Strain Makes Wider Vaccination More Important

Reuters: Alberto Giubilini (8 February 2021)
As vaccines arrive, South Africa faces widespread scepticism over safety

LBC Radio: Alberto Giubilini (7 February 2021)
What role should vaccine passports play post-Covid? (starts at 5:00 minutes on the clock, available until Sunday 14 February 2021)

The Conversation: Jonathan Pugh and Julian Savulescu (5 February 2021)
Not recommending AstraZeneca vaccine for the elderly risks the lives of the most vulnerable

The Wall Street Journal: Alberto Giubilini (5 February 2021)
Covid-19 Vaccine Shortage Sparks Fights Over Who Should Get First Shots [subscription required]

TRT World Roundtable: Alberto Giubilini (5 February 2021)
How much short-term damage has the EU done to its citizens by falling so far behind other countries in the West in Covid vaccinations (4 February 2021)

The Guardian: Alberto Giubilini (29 January 2021)
UK vaccine strategy 'paying off' as latest trials boost stockpiles: Pre-ordering of Janssen and Novavax means Britain has procured 247m successfully trialled jabs 

The Guardian: Alberto Giubilini (28 January 2021)
Sharing Covid vaccines is in UK's best interests, say scientists

Bloomberg: references Brown R, Kelly D, Wilkinson D, and Savulescu J, Lancet paper on immunity passports, 26 January 2021
Traveler Quarantines Aren’t Going Away Soon 
Covid-19 passports based on vaccinations are problematic. Immunity checks are a promising alternative, but still distant. Until we know more about the virus, expect only tighter restrictions.
References 'The scientific and ethical feasibility of immunity passports' Lancet Infectious Diseases 2020 (subscription required) [preprint freely available in Word]

ANews (Turkish TV): Alberto Giubilini, 25 January 2021
The challenges of equitable vaccine distribution. Watch on Facebook.

BBC Explainer: references Brown R, Kelly D, Wilkinson D, and Savulescu J, Lancet paper on immunity passports 25 January 2021
Covid: Can I spread coronavirus after the vaccine and will I get a passport?
References 'The scientific and ethical feasibility of immunity passports' Lancet Infectious Diseases 2020 (subscription required) [preprint freely available in Word]

The Telegraph: Julian Savulescu (22 January 2021)
It is unethical to keep those who have immunity locked down

Sky News Daily Podcast: Alberto Giubilini, 14 January 2021
COVID vaccine priority - young before old?  [Dr Giubilini's contribution starts at approx 10min]
Indonesia's prioritization approach to the the covid vaccine (prioritising 18-59 year olds to boost economy, rather than the elderly).

NewzRoom Afrika (South African TV): Alberto Giubilini, 13 January 2021
Dr Zweli Mkhize has said that the Covid-19 vaccination will not be compulsory in South Africa in mandatory vaccination [YouTube]

Consulta di Bioetica (Italian think tank): Alberto Giubilini, 13 January 2021
LA VACCINAZIONE COVID DEVE ESSERE OBBLIGATORIA OPPURE NO. Public debate on mandatory vaccination (in Italian) [YouTube]

The Conversation: Jonathan Pugh, 22 December 2020
Even though mass testing for COVID isn’t always accurate, it could still be useful – here’s why

CGTN Europe: Alberto Giubilini, 22 December 2020
Should the elderly be first in line for the vaccine? [See also interview on YouTube]

BBC Turkey: Rebecca Brown, 19 December 2020
Covid aşısı: Aşı sertifikası nedir, aşı olanlara ek haklar sağlanması ayrımcılığa neden olur mu?

i: Julian Savulescu and Rebecca Brown, 4 December 2020
Covid immunity passports: UK Government gave up on the idea over the summer, but is now looking at them again

The World Today - ABC Radio: Julian Savulescu, 24 November 2020
Qantas reveals 'no jab, no fly' without COVID vaccine for international travellers
The growing optimism over a COVID vaccine, means the potential for Australians to again travel overseas. But that may require more than a ticket, with Qantas revealing getting jabbed will be compulsory for its international travellers before they board a flight.

BBC World News: Julian Savulescu, 23 November 2020
Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine is highly effective (70%-90%) at stopping people developing Covid-19 symptoms, a large trial shows.

The Conversation: Julian Savulescu, Margie Danchin, 15 November 2020
COVID-19 vaccines could go to children first to protect the elderly

BMJ Newsroom: cites Julian Savulescu 5 November 2020
'Pay people to get COVID-19 jab to ensure widespread coverage, says leading ethicist'
cites Julian's open access article in Journal of Medical Ethics 'Good reasons to vaccinate: mandatory or payment for risk?'

Pharmacy Times: written by Jill Murphy, cites Julian Savulescu,10 November 2020
Commentary: Offer Compensation to Those Who Receive COVID-19 Vaccine When Available
references BMJ Newsroom piece and Julian's open access article in Journal of Medical Ethics 'Good reasons to vaccinate: mandatory or payment for risk?'

The Spectator: Alberto Giubilini, 7 November 2020
'The ethics of lockdown' [view as jpg file]

The Lancet (news item): written by Tony Kirby, cites Julian Savulescu, 30 October 2020
COVID-19 human challenge studies in the UK
The Human Challenge Consortium is an expert group exploring the feasibility and ethics of human challenge trials to accelerate the development of COVID vaccines. “The greatest concern about challenge studies is both the safety of the participants and the impact of a death on trust in science and medicine”, says Professor Julian Savulescu

New York Times: Alberto Giubilini, 15 October 2020
'In Fights Over Face Masks, Echoes of the American Seatbelt Wars' (references Giubilini and Savulescu's 2019 open access paper 'Vaccination, risks, and freedom: the seat belt analogy')
Seatbelt laws were a hard sell in state capitals as opponents argued they were uncomfortable or an imposition on personal liberty. Sound familiar?

Newstalk ZB: Dominic Wilkinson, 15 October 2020
Audio recording of interview: Thousands of people sign up to take an experimental Covid-19 vaccine
Tens of thousands have signed up for human challenge trials, with the hope of developing a vaccine quickly, and saving thousands of lives.

1Day Sooner: Dominic Wilkinson, 29 September 2020
Press release: 1Day Sooner Petition To Prepare COVID-19 Human Challenge Trial Facilities Gains Support Of Lord, Nobel Laureate, Oxford Professor Of Medical Ethics
A petition calling on the UK government to prepare a Challenge Study Center capable of housing 100-200 volunteers for a potential COVID-19 human challenge trial has gained the support of prominent British intellectuals including Lord Ara Darzi, Nobel Laureate Sir Richard Roberts, and Director of Medical Ethics at Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics Dominic Wilkinson.

BBC Mundo: Dominic Wilkinson, 6 September 2020
Coronavirus: los dilemas éticos con los que la pandemia de covid-19 nos está enfrentando
Interview [in Spanish] about his Oxford Arts Blog post 'The philosophy of COVID-19: is it even possible to do the ‘right thing’?'

Boston Globe: Alberto Giubilini, 4 September 2020
'COVID vaccinations could use a nudge'
You’re more likely to get your coronavirus shot if that’s the easier course of action.

New Scientist: Alberto Giubilini, 12 August 2020
'If we ever make a covid-19 vaccine who should be first to get it?'

New Statesman: Roger Crisp, 10 August 2020
What the problem of moral luck can teach us about lockdown rule-breakers
Is it ever right to blame people for the unintended consequences of their actions?

Amnesty International: Alberto Giubilini, July 2020
online debate article 'Should vaccinations be mandatory?' with Louise Gunning for Dutch magazine Wordt Vervolgt (Amnesty International) .

Boston Review: Frances Kamm (Advisory Board Member), 6 July 2020
Moral Reasoning in a Pandemic
Three things we need to get right

laRegione: Alberto Giubilini, 23 May 2020
L’equità di un vaccino obbligatorio
Immunity is a public good and as such everyone must contribute.
(Swiss newspaper, interview in Italian) Alberto Giubilini, 17 May 2020
Coronavirus vaccine: French government demands equal access in COVID-19 vaccine distribution row
Tough decisions will need to be made about who should receive priority access to potential vaccines.

ABC The World: Julian Savulescu, 30 April 2020
TV Discussion of UK Coronavirus policies. 

CNN: Julian Savulescu, updated 24 April 2020
The dangerous morality behind the 'Open it Up' movement
A healthcare worker in green scrubs stands in the middle of an intersection, staring down a traffic jam of screaming protesters demanding a return to their livelihoods and...

The Atlantic: Alberto Giubilini, 16 April 2020
Is It Ethically Okay to Get Food Delivered Right Now?
A guide to this and other pandemic food dilemmas.

The New York Times: Julian Savulescu, 8 April 2020
14 Days With a Quarantine Tracker Wristband: Does It Even Work?
Hong Kong’s bracelets seem to obliterate the temptation to go outside, even if they appear to be just a simple piece of paper.

ABC Radio National Breakfast: Dominic Wilkinson, 7 April 2020
UK and Germany consider issuing immunity passports to ease lockdowns
Expert commentary on immunity passports

Al Jazeera News: Julian Savulescu, 5 April 2020
Can an 'immunity passport' ease coronavirus lockdowns? [2:30 on the clock]
There is one idea out there that is already in the works, with the hope that it may ease worldwide lockdowns.

BBC Radio 4 Sunday: Dominic Wilkinson, 5 April 2020
Covid ethical dilemmas; Plants for Passion; Holy Howlers [approx 34 mins on the clock].
The Covid pandemic has created ‘battlefield’ conditions for UK doctors who may soon have to make very difficult decisions about who to prioritise for life-saving treatment.

Al Jazeera Inside Story: Dominic Wilkinson, 5 April 2020
How long does immunity last?
Some countries are considering issuing 'immunity passports' for those who have recovered from the coronavirus. But would that work?

Der Spiegel: Roger Crisp, 28 March 2020
Die Jüngeren sollten den Vorzug erhalten
The UK Government's strategy on Covid-19 - younger people should be prioritised for life-saving treatment.
Subscription required for online edition or read/download PDF here (in German).

New Scientist: Julian Savulescu, 26 March 2020
Which covid-19 patients will get a ventilator if there's a shortage?
Many countries are prioritising treatment to COVID-19 patients with the best chance of recovery, however we don’t yet fully understand which health conditions affect the chance of survival.

The Guardian: Julian Savulescu, 25 March 2020
Is it right to cut corners in the search for a coronavirus cure?
Vaccine and drug trials are slow, to account for safety. But in a pandemic time isn’t just money – it’s lives.

ABC Radio The Religion and Ethics Report: Xavier Symons, 25 March 2020
Who lives and who dies?
If the Coronavirus overwhelms our health system – which, as we discussed last week, it’s done in Italy – what sort of choices could face Australia’s medical professionals?

The Independent: Dominic Wilkinson, 24 March 2020
Coronavirus: Families should start planning for how virus affects most vulnerable, warns top medic
New research from Oxford University has cautioned that people concerned about becoming seriously ill due to the coronavirus should begin planning for how the disease might affect them.

El Pais: Carissa Véliz, 24 March 2020
La privacidad en tiempos de coronavirus
Privacy in times of coronavirus: The most effective measures against the pandemic do not go through apps that affect our rights.

Wall Street Journal: Article by Denise Roland, quotes Julian Savulescu, 19 March 2020
Wanted: People Willing to Get Sick to Find Coronavirus Vaccine
Thousands of people have volunteered to be infected in the hope of finding a vaccine for the new coronavirus.
"There's a positive ethical rationale for doing challenge study experiments," said Julian Savulescu, who leads research on collective responsibility in infectious disease at the University of Oxford. "This kind of research is one of the arrows in the quiver of tackling this kind of catastrophe."

The Guardian: Carissa Véliz, 18 March
Is it safe – and ethical – to order food online during the coronavirus outbreak?
Online services such are dealing with huge surges in delivery orders. This raises an ethical dilemma: is it morally acceptable to ask others – normally in less secure jobs with worse pay – to take on a risk that you don’t want to?

ABC: Julian Savulescu and Dominic Wilkinson, Updated: 17 March 2020
Who gets the ventilator in the coronavirus pandemic? These are the ethical approaches to allocating medical care
It is undeniable that people should have an equal chance when there are sufficient resources. Someone should not be denied medical treatment that is available because of their sex, race, age, disability or any other factor. That would be unfair discrimination. But when there are limited resources, doctors do take various factors into account.

The Sydney Morning Herald: Xavier Symons, 13 March 2020
Rationing care to cope with COVID-19 should never be based on age alone
As Australia’s coronavirus outbreak worsens, health authorities are bracing for an unprecedented increase in hospital admissions and demand for acute care. Authorities in NSW are anticipating as many as 1.5 million people in the state to be infected with COVID-19. Hospitals are being asked to double their intensive care capacity in anticipation of a surge of patients. Alberto Giubilini, 06 March 2020
As Italy's students rejoice over school closures, families worry about economic toll
“The government is adopting a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach, choosing to impose the most extreme measures. I think it is justified in this case, even though it will be disastrous for many families and for the economy. But the priority right now is public health, so even harsh measures are justified. [...] The government should invest money into compensating the victims of these measures, even if this will worsen the financial crisis already caused by the virus. But if it does not, it is just using people as mere means to an end, which is not ethically acceptable. These people are not necessarily responsible for carrying the disease, but they pay the price.” 

BBC Radio 4 Moral Maze: Dominic Wilkinson, Released: 04 Mar 2020
Should we do everything we can to protect the most vulnerable in our society, even if the knock on effect to the global economy has the potential to cause suffering and death for many more people further down the line? With Dr. Tony Booth, Dr. Norman Lewis, Julian Sheather & Professor Dominic Wilkinson.  Chaired by Michael Buerk.
Available on BBC Sounds for over a year.

Al Jazeera Inside Story: Dominic Wilkinson, 27 February 2020
Is the spread of coronavirus out of control? [5:15 on the clock]

Practical Ethics YouTube Channel

Thinking Out Loud: Animals and Pandemics

Covid-19 is very likely a zoonotic disease, which means that it was transmitted from animals  to humans. Other dangerous infectious diseases, such as SARS, MERS, Ebola and HIV originated in animals too. In fact, of all emerging infectious diseases in humans, 75% are zoonotic. In this new video interview series, Katrien Devolder discusses how we migh prevent future pandemics from arising with philosophers and other experts.  See full Thinking Out Loud YouTube playlist.

Thinking Out Loud: Corona Edition

In this video, Katrien Devolder announces a new video series with philosophers and other experts discussing ethical issues raised by the corona-crisis. Interviewees include Alberto Giubilini, Carissa Véliz, Moti Gorin, César Palacios-González, Dominic Wilkinson, Udo Schüklenk, Agomoni Ganguli Mitra, Marco Vergano and Peter Singer. 

Full playlist including both series on YouTube here.  Also available as audio on Oxford Podcasts album here.


Other videos

Vaccine policies and challenge trials: the ethics of relative risk in public health

In this St Cross Special Ethics Seminar, Dr Sarah Chan explores three key areas of risk in ‘challenge trials’ – the deliberate infection of human participants to infectious agents as a tool for vaccine devlopment and improving our knowledge of disease biology.  Dr Chan explores a) whether some forms of challenge trials cannot be ethically justified; b) why stratifying populations for vaccine allocation by risk profile can result in unjust risk distribution; and c) how comparing these cases and the evaluation of relative risk reveals flaws in approach to pandemic public health (18 November 2021).


How Epidemics End: Albert Giubilini and Pandemic Ethics

Dr. Alberto Giubilini and Dr. Kristin Heitman discuss ethical issues raised in efforts to balance individual freedoms and social measures to control the spread of disease (12 May 2021).


RT UK: Vaccine passports

Alberto Giubilini argues that individual liberties shouldn't take precedent over public health when it comes to the Covid vaccine (23 March 2021).

TRT World​ Roundtable: EU VACCINE PASSPORTS: Will they get off the ground?

Going anywhere this summer? You might need more than one passport if you plan to leave Europe, or if you want to visit the continent from elsewhere. With Alberto Giubilini. (11 March 2021)

BBC World News: Vaccine passports

Interview with Dr Giubilini, discussing vaccination passports (25 February 2021)

Sky News Italy: Passaporto vaccinale, i dubbi del Regno Unito

Alberto Giubilini discusses with vaccination passports on Sky Italy [in Italian] (24 February 2021)

Ada Lovelace Institute: The ethical implications of vaccine passports and COVID status apps

With Dr Alberto Giubilini. The third of Ada's public evidence events on vaccine passports and COVID status apps, in which we explore the ethical questions surrounding them, from the acceptability of discrimination on the basis of immunity status to the question of whether governments can continue to restrict the liberties of those who may no longer pose a risk to others (11 February 2021).

Going Underground on RT: Why You Should Take The COVID Vaccine Despite The New Variants

Dr Giubilini discusses why it is a moral imperative for governments to approve and roll out COVID-19 vaccines as fast as possible, why it is a moral imperative for people to take them, why people still should take the Oxford/AstraZeneca Coronavirus Vaccine to protect themselves from hospitalisation from the South African coronavirus variant, ‘irresponsibility’ and alarmism by the mainstream media throughout the pandemic, the reasons for the mistrust of governments, health officials, vaccines etc (10 February 2021)

RT UK News: Is the UK wrong to hold a large stock of vaccines?

In this interview for RT UK News, Professor Alberto Giubilini explains why a balance between national and global interest is needed when it comes to vaccine distribution (29 January 2021).

ANews (Turkish TV): The challenges of equitable vaccine distribution. 

Alberto Giubilini, 25 January 2021. Watch on Facebook.

BBC World News: Global Vaccine Distribution

Watch BBC World News interview with Dr Alberto Giubilini on global vaccine distribution and vaccine nationalism (18 January 2021).

Dr Zweli Mkhize has said that the Covid-19 vaccination will not be compulsory in South Africa in mandatory vaccination

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has said that getting the Covid-19 vaccination will not be compulsory in South Africa. But with just 53% of respondents in a recent poll saying they are willing to get innoculated some are asking whether it would be necessary to make the vaccination mandatory. Is there a case for making the Covid-19 vaccine mandatory and where do we draw the line between personal liberty and public health?(13 January 2021).

NewzRoom Afrika (South African TV).


Public debate on mandatory vaccination, in Italian (13 January 2021).

Consulta di Bioetica (Italian think tank).

Should the elderly be first in line for the vaccine?

Should key workers and the young be ahead of the elderly when it comes to administering COVID-19 vaccines? Oxford University’s Albert Giubilini argues the case. He believes that with the vaccine in short supply it needs to be considered whether those at greatest risk of catching the virus need to be at the top of the list to receive it. Interview on CGTN Europe (22 December 2020).

Read accompanying article on CGTN website.

Should the UK government require people to get vaccinated for COVID-19?

Alberto Giubilini in discussion with 'Bad Boy of Science' Samuel Gregson (4 December 2020)

Mandatory COVID-19 vaccination: the arguments for and against

Oxford Martin School talk with Professor Julian Savulescu and Dr Samantha Vanderslott (3 December 2020)

Public Debate: This House Supports Mandatory Vaccination for COVID-19

Public debate and Q&A organised by Imperial College Union Debating Society. With Professor Julian Savulescu (3 December 2020).

Available to watch on Facebook here:

talkRADIO with Dan Wootton

Interviewed on lockdown ethics. Dr Giubilini's contribution appears at 27:10 (5 November 2020)

Covid-19: who should be vaccinated first?

Alberto Giubilini interviewed by Katrien Devolder (21 September 2020)

After healthcare and some other essential workers, it might seem the most obvious candidates for a Covid-19 vaccine (if we have one) are the elderly and other groups that are more vulnerable to the virus. But Alberto Giubilini argues that prioritising children may be a better option as this could maximise the benefits of indirect immunity for elderly and other vulnerable groups.

Should vaccinations be compulsory?

Alberto Giubilini interviewed by Katrien Devolder (5 March 2019)

Why do some people refuse to have their child vaccinated? Are there any good reasons not to vaccinate one’s child? Why should one have one's child vaccinated if this doesn't make a difference to whether the community is protected? Why is vaccinating one’s child an ethical issue? In this interview with Dr Katrien Devolder, Dr Alberto Giubilini (Philosophy, Oxford) discusses these and other questions, which he addresses in his new book 'The Ethics of Vaccination' (downloadable for free from Springer website).

The Pandemic Ethics Acccelerator Podcast Series

Album cover with University of Oxford crest with an image of a blue face mask on an orange background

The UK Pandemic Ethics Accelerator project examined the ethical challenges faced during pandemics. It combined expertise from the Universities of Oxford, Bristol, Edinburgh, University College London, and the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.

This six-part podcast series is hosted by David Edmonds and covers some of the themes that emerged from the research. This six-part series can be listened to at University of Oxford Podcasts and at (transcripts are also available to download).

Interviewees include Jamie Webb, Beth Kamunge-Kpodo, John Coggan, Sarah Cunningham Burley, Melanie Smallman, James Wilson, Jonny Pugh and Ilina Singh.

Thinking Out Loud: Corona Edition Podcast Series

Thinking Out Loud provides audio-podcasts based on a series of videos produced by OUCs Katrien Devolder in which she talks to leading philosophers from around the world on topics related to practical ethics. The podcast and videos are meant for a non-specialist audience. You can watch the videos on the Practical Ethics Channel or subscribe to the iTunes and/or Oxford Podcasts audio album here.

Interviewees include Alberto Giubilini, Carissa Véliz, Moti Gorin, César Palacios-González, Dominic Wilkinson, Udo Schüklenk, Agomoni Ganguli Mitra, Marco Vergano and Peter Singer.

Practical Ethics in the News Blogs

Published January 17, 2022 | By Dominic Wilkinson, Julian Savulescu and Jonathan Pugh
Was Djokovic Unethically Blamed and Shamed?​​​​​

Published December 16, 2021 | By Julian Savulescu and Alberto Giubilini
Shaming unvaccinated people has to stop. We’ve turned into an angry mob and it’s getting ugly
[crosspost with The Conversation]

Published November 23, 2021 | By Alberto Giubilini and Julian Savulescu
Mandatory Vaccination Should Be Selective, Not General

Published November 16, 2021 | By Jonathan Pugh, Dominic Wilkinson, and Julian Savulescu
Selective lockdowns can be ethically justifiable – here’s why (republished from The Conversation, read the original article).

Published November 12, 2021 | By Alberto Giubilini
Why COVID passes are not discriminatory (in the way you think they are) (republished from The Conversation, read the original article).

Published November 10, 2021 | By Dominic Wilkinson, Jonathan Pugh, Julian Savulescu
NHS and Care Home Mandates Should Take Account of Natural Immunity to COVID

Published November 3, 2021 | By Maximilian Kiener
Should You Stop Wearing A Mask Just Because the Law Gives You Permission To Do So? (republished from The Conversation, read the original article)

Published September 13, 2021 | By Alberto Giubilini
The double ethical mistake of vaccinating children against COVID-19​​​​​

Published August 28, 2021 | By Lisa Forsberg, Anthony Skelton, Isra Black
We Should Vaccinate Children in High-income Countries Against COVID-19 Too

Published August 4, 2021 | By Alberto Giubilini and Erica Charters
The end of the COVID-19 pandemic

Published July 23, 2021 | By Dominic Wilkinson and Trish Greenhalgh
COVID: Media Must Rise Above Pitting Scientists Against Each other – Dealing With the Pandemic Requires Nuance [crosspost with The Conversation]

Published July 7, 2021 | By Dominic Wilkinson, Jonathan Pugh and Julian Savulescu
COVID: Why We Should Stop Testing in Schools [crosspost with The Conversation]

Published June 18, 2021 | By Dominic Wilkinson and Julian Savulescu 
Mandatory Vaccination for Care Workers: Pro and Con [an edited version of this was published in The Conversation]

Published June 16, 2021 | By Lisa Forsberg
No jab, no job? Vaccination requirements for care home staff

Published June 16, 2021 | By Julian Savulescu, Dominic Wilkinson and Jonathan Pugh
Care home staff vaccination – press release

Published June 15, 2021 | By Stephen Rainey
Post-Normal Challenges of Covid

Published June 4, 2021 | By Dominic Wilkinson, Jonathan Pugh and Julian Savulescu
Pfizer Jab Approved for Children, but First Other People need to be Vaccinated [crosspost with The Conversation] ​​​​​​

Published May 7, 2021 | By Alberto Giubilini and Jay Bhattacharya
Crosspost: Immunity Passports: A Debate Between Jay Bhattacharya and Alberto Giubilini [crosspost with Lockdown Sceptics]
Prof Jay Bhattacharya (Professor of Medicine, Stanford University) and I collaborate on Collateral Global, a new project that aims to evaluate the impact of lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions. We have the same view on lockdown and pandemic restrictions, but we do have our own internal, healthy disagreement. Most people who are skeptical and critical of lockdowns (as both Prof Bhattacharya and I are) are also against immunity passports (as he is), often for the same reasons. I disagree on this point and I think some form of immunity passport should be introduced. In this exchange first published on Lockdown Sceptics, we try to explore exactly where our disagreement lies and try to identify possible areas of agreement on the matter. AG.

Published May 5, 2021 | By Charles Foster
Lockdown Erodes Agency

Published April 29, 2021 | By Owen Schaefer and Julian Savulescu
Vaccine Nationalism: Striking the balance [This is an updated cross-post of an article published in MediCine

​​Published April 9, 2021 | By Lisa Forsberg and Anthony Skelton
Mandating COVID-19 Vaccination for Children

Published March 25, 2021 | ByJulian Savulescu, Dominic Wilkinson, Jonathan Pugh and Margie Danchin
Cross Post: There’s no Need to Pause Vaccine Rollouts When There’s a Safety Scare. Give the Public the Facts and Let Them Decide [This article is republished from The Conversation]

Published March 16, 2021 | By Jonathan Pugh, Dominic Wilkinson, and Julian Savulescu
Suspending The Astra-Zeneca Vaccine and The Ethics of Precaution

​​​Published March 15, 2021 | By Dominic Wilkinson and Jonathan Pugh
Cross Post: COVID vaccines: is it wrong to jump the queue? [cross-posted in The Conversation]

Published March 4, 2021 | By Tom Douglas
Cross Post: Vaccine Passports: Four Ethical Objections, and Replies [a (slightly modified) cross-post from The Brussels Times]

Published March 3, 2021 | By Alberto Giubilini and Julian Savulescu
What Is The Justification For Keeping Lockdown In Place? Two Questions For The UK Government

Published March 3, 2021 | By Lisa Forsberg and Isra Black
Inoculate to Imbibe? On the Pub Landlord Who Requires You to be Vaccinated against Covid

Published March 2, 2021 | By Dominic Wilkinson and Jonathan Pugh
Is it Irrational Not to Have a Plan? Should There Have Been National Guidance on Rationing in the NHS? [cross-posted in the Journal of Medical Ethics Blog]

Published February 24, 2021 | By Jonathan Pugh, Dominic Wilkinson and Julian Savulescu
Cross-Post: Self-experimentation with vaccines [cross-posted in the Journal of Medical Ethics Blog]

Published February 23, 2021 | By Ben Davies
Priority Vaccination for Prison and Homeless Populations

Published February 23, 2021 | By Jonathan Pugh, Dominic Wilkinson, Julian Savulescu
An Ethical Review of Hotel Quarantine Policies For International Arrivals

Published February 11, 2021 | By Jonathan Pugh and Dominic Wilkinson
Crosspost: Is It Ethical To Quarantine People In Hotel Rooms? [cross-posted in The Conversation]

Published February 8, 2021 | By Jonathan Pugh and Julian Savulescu
Not Recommending AstraZeneca Vaccine For The Elderly Risks The Lives Of The Most Vulnerable  [cross-posted in The Conversation]

Published February 4, 2021 | By Thomas Moller-Nielsen
Guest Post: What Is The Case For Virtual Schooling?

Published February 3, 2021 | By Alberto Giubilini
The UK should share the vaccine with the other countries – but only after all the vulnerable have been vaccinated [cross-posted in The Conversation]

Published January 29, 2021 | By Julian Savulescu, Bridget Williams, James Cameron, James Trauer, Ben Marais and Romain Ragonnet
The ethics of age-selective restrictions for COVID-19 control [Cross-posted with the Journal of Medical Ethics blog]

Published January 27, 2021 | By Alberto Giubilini
Current Lockdown Is Ageist (Against The Young)

Published January 23, 2021 | By Julian Savulescu
Are Immunity Passports a Human Rights Issue? [A shorter version of this post appears in The Telegraph]

Published January 22, 2021 | By Jonathan Pugh and Julian Savulescu
Ethical Considerations For The Second Phase Of Vaccine Prioritisation

Published January 12, 2021 | By Julian Savulescu and Jonathan Pugh
Vaccines and Ventilators: Need, Outcome or a Right to a Fair Go?

Published January 12, 2021 | By Roger Crisp
Pandemic Ethics: Saving Lives and Replaceability

Published January 4, 2021 | By Jonathan Pugh
Even Though Mass Testing For COVID Isn’t Always Accurate, It Could Still Be Useful – Here’s Why [originally posted in The Conversation, 22 December 2020]

Published December 21, 2020 | By Ben Davies and Gabriel De Marco
Selectively Saving Christmas?

Published December 16, 2020 | By Ben Davies and Joshua Parker
Consent Without Alternatives

Published December 4, 2020 | By Dominic Wilkinson
DNACPR Orders in a Pandemic: Misgivings and Misconceptions.

Published December 4, 2020 | By Tom Douglas
Could vaccine requirements for entering pubs be wrong, while closing pubs altogether is OK?

Published December 1, 2020 | By Julian Savulescu and Alberto Giubilini
The Libertarian Argument Is the Best Argument Against Immunity Passports. But is it good enough?

Published October 20, 2020 | By Julian Savulescu and Dominic Wilkinson
Press Release: UK Approves COVID-19 Challenge Studies

Published October 31, 2020 | By Charles Foster
The Duty To Ignore Covid-19

Published October 15, 2020 | By Alberto Giubilini
Pandemic Ethics: Should Santa Claus deliver Christmas presents this year? Preparing for our first COVID-19 Christmas

Published 24 September, 2020 | By Dominic Wilkinson
Coronavirus: Why I Support the World’s First COVID Vaccine Challenge Trial (Cross posted with The Conversation)

Published 28 July, 2020 | By Julian Savulescu
Pandemic Ethics: Good Reasons to Vaccinate: COVID19 Vaccine, Mandatory or Payment Model?

Published 23 July, 2020 | By Farbod Akhlaghi
Guest Post- Pandemic Ethics: Your Freedom Really Matters. So What?

Published July 23, 2020 | Alberto Giubilini
Pandemic Ethics: Testing times: An ethical framework and practical recommendations for COVID-19 testing for NHS workers

Published 13 July, 2020 | By Professor Frances Kamm, Harvard University
Pandemic Ethics: Moral Reasoning in a Pandemic [Cross-Posted with The Boston Review]

Published 21 May, 2020 | By Roger Crisp
Pandemic Ethics: Utilitarianism and the Lockdown

Published 19 May, 2020 | By Charles Foster
We’re All Vitalists Now

Published 13 May, 2020 | By Thomas Douglas, Jonathan Pugh and Lisa Forsberg
Pandemic Ethics: Compulsory treatment or vaccination versus quarantine
Cross posted with the Journal of Medical Ethics Blog

Published 6 May , 2020 | By Alberto Giubilini
Contact-tracing apps and the future COVID-19 vaccination should be compulsory. Social, technological, and pharmacological immunisation

Published 5 May, 2020 | By Stephen Rainey
Following the Science Without Forgetting Values

Published 24 April, 2020 | By Julian Savulescu and Dominic Wilkinson
Pandemic Ethics: Extreme Altruism in a Pandemic
Cross-posted with the Journal of Medical Ethics Blog

Published 22 April, 2020 | By Doug McConnell and Dominic Wilkinson
Pandemic Ethics: Key Workers Have a Stronger Claim to Compensation and Hazard Pay for Working During The COVID-19 Pandemic Than The Armed Forces Do When on Deployment
Post originally appeared on the Journal of Medical Ethics Blog

Published 22 April, 2020 | By Julian Savulescu and James Cameron
Pandemic Ethics: Why Lock Down of the Elderly is Not Ageist and Why Levelling Down Equality is Wrong
Cross-posted with the Journal of Medical Ethics Blog

Published 21 April, 2020 | By Bryce Goodman
Pandemic Ethics. Social Justice Demands Mass Surveillance: Social Distancing, Contact Tracing and COVID-19

Published 14 April, 2020 | By Ben Davies and Joshua Parker
Maximising Ventilators: Some Ethical Complications

Published 13 April, 2020 | By David Killoren
Guest post: Pandemic Ethics-Earthquakes, Infections, and Consent

Published 8 April, 2020 | By Ben Davies
The Perfect Protocol? Ethics Guidelines in a Pandemic

Published 8 April, 2020 | By Dominic Wilkinson
Cross Post: Boris Johnson Will Be Receiving The Same Special Treatment Other Patients Do In NHS Intensive Care
Cross posted in The Conversation

Published 4 April, 2020 | By Alberto Giubilini
Why You Should Not (Be Allowed To) Have That Picnic in the Park, Even if it Does Not Make a Difference
An expanded version of this blogpost is to be published in journal Think (link to article to follow)

Published 30 March, 2020 | By Neil Levy
The Coronavirus: Signs of Hope?

Published 25 March, 2020 | By Julian Savulescu
Pandemic Ethics: Is it right to cut corners in the search for a coronavirus cure?
Cross-posted from The Guardian

Published 24 March, 2020 | By Julian Savulescu and Dominic Wilkinson
Pandemic Ethics: Who gets the ventilator in the coronavirus pandemic? These are the ethical approaches to allocating medical care
Cross-posted from ABC Online

Published 24 March, 2020 | By Stephen Rainey
Politics, Ethics, and Shutting Down in the Face of Covid-19

Published 24 March, 2020 | By Hazem Zohny
Pandemic Ethics: Covid-19 Shows Just How Much of Ethics Depends on (Good) Data

Published 24 March, 2020 | By Stephen Rainey
Politics, Ethics, and Shutting Down in the Face of Covid-19

Published 23 March, 2020 | By Dominic Wilkinson
Coronavirus: The Conversation We Should Have With Our Loved Ones Now – Leading Medic

Published 21 March, 2020 | By Anders Sandberg
Pandemic ethics: Never again – will we make Covid-19 a warning shot or a dud?

Published 18 March, 2020 | By Charles Foster
Coronavirus: Dark Clouds, But Some Silver Linings?

Published 16 March, 2020 | By Jonathan Pugh and Tom Douglas
Pandemic Ethics: Infectious Pathogen Control Measures and Moral Philosophy

Published 13 March, 2020 | By Doug McConnell
Pandemic Ethics: How Much Risk Should Social Care Workers and Their Families Be Expected to Take?

Published 4 March, 2020 | By Anders Sandberg
Pandemic Ethics: the Unilateralist Curse and Covid-19, or Why You Should Stay Home

Published 26 February, 2020 | By Dominic Wilkinson
Pandemic Ethics: Should Frontline Doctors and Nurses Get Preferential Treatment?

External blogs and podcasts

The Conversation: Catherine Bennett, Holly Seale, Julian Savulescu, Katie Attwell, Tony Blakely (3 February 2022)
Is it time to rethink vaccine mandates for dining, fitness and events? We asked 5 experts

The Conversation: Dominic Wilkinson, Alberto Giubilini, Julian Savulescu (4 February 2022)
Is this the end of the road for vaccine mandates in healthcare?
[crosspost with Practical Ethics in the News]

The Conversation: Dominic Wilkinson, Jonathan Pugh and Julian Savulescu (26 January 2022)
Vaccine mandates for healthcare workers should be scrapped – omicron has changed the game

The Spectator Podcasts: Features Julian Savulescu (6 January 2022)
Rip it up: the vaccine passport experiment needs to end [JS contribution starts at approx. 3:40]

The Conversation: Julian Savulescu, Dominic Wilkinson and Jonathan Pugh (6 December 2021)
Why the UK shouldn’t introduce mandatory COVID vaccination

The Conversation: Dominic Wilkinson and Jonathan Pugh (3 December 2021)
Omicron: better to be safe (and quick) than sorry

Sky News Daily podcast: Dominic Wilkinson (9 September 2021)
COVID vaccines: To jab or not to jab our kids?

The Conversation: Jonathan Pugh, Dominic Wilkinson, Julian Savulescu (6 August 2021)
COVID: WHO calls for moratorium on booster shots – is it justifiable?

The Conversation: Asha Bowen, Catherine Bennett, Julian Savulescu, Margie Danchin and Nicholas Wood (2 August 2021)
Should we vaccinate children against COVID-19? We asked 5 experts

The Conversation: Dominic Wilkinson and Julian Savulescu (17 June 2021)
Should COVID vaccines be compulsory for care home staff? Experts debate

The Conversation: Lisa Forsberg and Anthony Skelton (13 May 2021)
3 reasons for making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for children

The Conversation: Barbara Sahakian, Christelle Langley and Julian Savulescu (13 May 2021)
Vaccine passports: why they are good for society

Journal of Medical Ethics Blog: How Much Certainty is Enough: Immunity Passports and COVID-19
By Rebecca Brown, Julian Savulescu, Bridget Williams and Dominic Wilkinson (11 May 2020)

Lex-Atlas: Covid-19: Tom Douglas (29 April 2021)
An in-principle case for mandatory vaccination
LAC19 is a global academic project mapping legal responses to Covid-19

The Conversation: Jonathan Pugh, Dominic Wilkinson and Julian Savulescu (16 April 2021)
Learning to live with COVID – the tough choices ahead [cross-posted in Practical Ethics in the News]

LBC Radio: Dominic Wilkinson (17 April 2021)
Outrage over vaccine passports 'an overreaction,' claims medical expert 

Red Box (Times Radio): Alberto Giubilini (25 March 2021)
The Only Way Is Ethics [Alberto's contribution starts at 39:50]
Matt Chorley tackles the philosophical questions behind pub passports and longer lockdowns, with AC Grayling, Baroness Deech and Alberto Giubilini.

The Conversation: Julian Savulescu, Dominic Wilkinson, Jonathan Pugh and Margie Danchin (25 March 2021)
There’s no need to pause vaccine rollouts when there’s a safety scare. Give the public the facts and let them decide

​​​​ORF (Austrian radio): Alberto Giubilini (18 March 2021)
Interviewed on the suspension of the AZ vaccine in some European countries

The Conversation: Jonathan Pugh and Julian Savulescu (5 February 2021)
Not recommending AstraZeneca vaccine for the elderly risks the lives of the most vulnerable

Podcast for Oxford Sparks: Alberto Giubilini, 3 February 2021
Who should get the vaccine first?

The RSA blog: Julian Savulescu and Peter Marber, 6 January 2021
Biden’s first mandate: a pandemic GI bill

KCRW’s LIFE EXAMINED: Julian Savulescu, 12 December 2020
Are mandatory vaccinations ethical?
Jonathan Bastian talks with philosopher Julian Savulescu about the anti-vax movement, personal liberty, and the ethics of mandatory vaccinations. 

Radio Canada: Dominic Wilkinson, 6 December 2020
Les enjeux des certificats de vaccination [The challenges of vaccination certificates]
Interview in French for Radio Canada on immunisation passports

BBC Sounds: Alberto Giubilini, 27 November 2020
The Real Story 'Covid vaccines: An opportunity for science?' [Dr Giubilini's contribution appears at 37:00 - 40:00]
Vaccines appear close to deployment. But how many people will be willing to get it?

The Conversation: Julian Savulescu, Margie Danchin, 15 November 2020
COVID-19 vaccines could go to children first to protect the elderly

Journal of Medical Ethics Blog: Alberto Giubilini, Julian Savulescu and Dominic Wilkinson, 11 November 2020
Vaccine distribution ethics: monotheism or polytheism?

The Guardian: Alberto Giubilini, 17 September 2020
Podcast: 'Covid-19 ethics: should we deliberately infect volunteers in the name of science? (part 2)'. Listen to Part 2 on The Guardian website.

The Guardian, Alberto Giubilini, 15 September 2020
Podcast: 'Covid-19 ethics: should we deliberately infect volunteers in the name of science?' (part 1). Listen to Part 1 on The Guardian website.

Oxford Arts Blog: Dominic Wilkinson, 25 August 2020
The philosophy of COVID-19: is it even possible to do the ‘right thing’?
For the first time, in a very long time, philosophical considerations have become the stuff of political debate and everyday conversation. Is it right to deprive people of their liberty or not; to dictate personal behaviour or not; to close borders or not; to protect life or the health service or the economy, or not?

OUP blog: Guest post by Alberto Giubilini and Julian Savulescu, 4 April 2020
Why vaccines should be compulsory
Vaccines are like a seat belt against infectious diseases, and that vaccination mandates are justified for the same reasons seat belt mandates are [...] if you fail to vaccinate yourself or your children there is a much larger risk of harming other people who are not vaccinated (for example those who are immunosuppressed, young children or those whose immunity has waned over time), besides imposing an easily preventable risk on you and your children.

Animal Politico: Guest blog by César Palacios González, April 1, 2020
El gobierno se equivoca al no hablar sobre las muertes que vienen por COVID-19 [The government is wrong not to talk about the deaths that come from COVID-19]
There are three reasons that show us that the Mexican government's strategy of not talking about possible deaths from COVID-19 is wrong.

Philosophical Disquisitions: Tom Douglas and Jonathan Pugh, 25 March 2020
Podcast:  COVID 19 and the Ethics of Infectious Disease Control
Tom and Jonathan discuss the ethics of pandemic control measures with John Dahaher, based on their recent blog post. 

Stockholm Centre for the Ethics of War and Peace: Tom Douglas, 24 March 2020
Flouting Quarantine
The outbreak has brought the ethics of quarantine, isolation and enforced social distancing to public attention. César Palacios González, 21 March 2020
Coronavirus: los escenarios para México
The [Mexican] government has not been clear about the number of deaths it expects or the effects its public health policies will have on the death rate.


(1) The ethical Exit Strategy: the path from relaxing measures to vaccination

UKRI funded project

  • Investigator: Alberto Giubilini
  • Duration: 10 months
  • Starting date: 1 June 2020


The current lockdown to contain the COVID-19 emergency, even as it is eased, implies a societal, economic, and psychological cost that is not sustainable for too long. The ‘exit strategy’ is and will be for quite a while the main focus of the public health and political debate, also in consideration of the not too remote possibility of a second wave of the virus in the coming months. But the exit strategy cannot be designed and implemented unless certain ethical decisions about trade-offs between values are made.

Although they might seem just technical decisions about epidemiology, economics, or psychology, many of the decisions in the exit strategy will actually be ethical decisions about how to weigh these different aspects against each other. This project addresses, in chronological order, three core steps of the exit strategies that require close ethical scrutiny:

  1. At what point, and through which steps, will it be acceptable to start the path back to some form of normality, and how should this path be affected in case of a second wave?
  2. What kind of contact-tracing technologies and procedures (e.g mobile app and human contact tracing) can be used during the transition, and how?
  3. When we have a vaccine, which vaccination policy should be adopted?


From the way talk about exit strategy is currently framed, it might appear that it will be a matter of technical decisions or, as the Government put it, a matter ‘of taking the right steps at the right time, informed by the best science’. But this is only partly true. Policy makers will need to show commitment to ethical principles and be able to justify decisions to sacrifice certain values and principles for the sake of others, which will be unavoidable

For example, they might have to increase risk of illness or even death for certain individuals for the sake the psychological or financial interest of those who are being most heavily affected by the lockdown; to sacrifice to a certain degree privacy for the sake of public health in the use of contact-tracing technologies. This is not merely about “the best science”. These are ethical decisions.

It will not be possible to make these decisions without having a plausible story about which values will at some point have to be prioritized, and why.  This is not only because policy decisions need to be ethically acceptable (which is always a requirement), but also because without appealing to certain ethical values, that go beyond merely technical considerations, it will be difficult to gain people’s trust.

This research will result in a set of recommendations, in the form of policy papers addressed to the relevant Government departments as well as academic papers, about how to make these necessary trade-offs between values in a way that can inform both public health policy and public health communication strategy.

Project outputs

For free resources arising from the grant such as publications, reports, YouTube videos and online media, go to the project webpage at


Alberto Giubilini is a Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and at the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and the Humanities, University of Oxford. He has a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Milan, and prior to joining the Uehiro Centre he worked in Australia at Monash University, University of Melbourne and Charles Sturt University. He has published on different topics in bioethics and philosophy, with a particular focus in recent years on public health ethics (including the ethics of vaccination, of antibiotic resistance, of challenge studies, and of coerciveness of public health measures more generally). He recently published the book The Ethics of Vaccination (Palgrave MacMillan 2019)