Press "Enter" to skip to content

My Patients Need Me. Can I Quit?

I dwell in a metropolis that gives Covid vaccines to volunteers who’ve labored 15 hours at a vaccination web site. Not surprisingly, the demand for volunteer slots far exceeds provide. I received my first shot final week. I have extra volunteer shifts scheduled for the subsequent few weeks. Should I relinquish these shifts to others, to allow them to be vaccinated? Does the answer change if I am assured that my shifts will go to pals who I know are additionally hard-working volunteers? I really feel an obligation to proceed volunteering as a result of a) I don’t wish to disappear now that I have the vaccine; and b) even after only one shot, it’s most likely safer for me to work together with sufferers (who’re previous or in any other case susceptible) than somebody who has not been vaccinated in any respect. However, I additionally really feel an obligation to let another person be vaccinated. Elaine, Dallas

Your vaccination was performed early not with a view to get you to volunteer however with a view to make your shifts safer for you and for these you serve. Stopping now undermines that objective. You’re contemplating stopping in order that another person may be vaccinated. But somebody will get that dose no matter you do. You’ve framed the question to your self by way of a “duty to let someone else be vaccinated.” But suppose you requested whether or not it’s OK to sport the system with a view to favor one or two of your mates. I’m positive that prospect wouldn’t sit effectively with you.

Giving explicit weight to you and yours doesn’t imply you may ignore the ethical calls for of others.

By the logic of this “duty” you invoke, every of your diligent pals ought to spend the minimal period of time working on the web site with a view to be vaccinated after which cross the chance alongside to a different. Your obligation is, actually, to do your job and acknowledge that the vaccination program doesn’t exist for the good thing about those that work there. Volunteering was a present; however for those who deal with the work as means for vaccinating pals who don’t in any other case qualify, it’s at risk of changing into a grift. You’d solely be diverting vaccine doses away from individuals who have been declared eligible by a system of vaccine distribution that seeks to attain quite a lot of goals. Allowing individuals who work at a vaccination web site to get particular remedy for his or her pals isn’t a type of goals.


In my state and probably elsewhere, food-bank volunteers get precedence entry to coronavirus vaccines. Is it moral to start out volunteering at a meals financial institution with a view to be vaccinated sooner? Name Withheld, Somerville, Mass.

The finest type of individuals do what is correct for the very best causes. The ethical saint would volunteer unselfishly on the meals financial institution as a result of it’s a method of serving the deprived in her group. You’re admitting you’re not that excellent individual. But volunteering for the meals financial institution, even when for less-than-admirable causes, remains to be a very good factor to do. Once once more, the vaccination isn’t a reward for that good act; it’s needed to cut back the probabilities of individuals (together with you) changing into contaminated on the meals financial institution. Still, it will also be an incentive to enroll, as individuals in your group clearly know, and in these circumstances, it’s not terribly possible that you just’ll get a great deal of unmerited kudos for displaying up. Were you then to contrive for the job to carousel amongst your in any other case vaccine-ineligible pals, although, you’d be abusing the association. If your motives are self-serving, guarantee that your actions are above board.


Kwame Anthony Appiah teaches philosophy at N.Y.U. His books embody “Cosmopolitanism,” “The Honor Code” and “The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity.” To submit a question: Send an e-mail to [email protected]; or ship mail to The Ethicist, The New York Times Magazine, 620 Eighth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10018. (Include a daytime cellphone quantity.)