Issues and Insights on COVID-19

“During the COVID-19 pandemic and as we move beyond it, we recognize the need for knowledge to shape behavior, evidence to influence policies, and frameworks to guide decision making. My colleagues at Penn and I offer our insights and experience to help you navigate these times from an informed perspective.”     ~ Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, PhD

Surveillance, Privacy, and Human Rights

April 22, 2022

MEHP Online faculty and instructors are concerned with the surveillance, privacy, and human rights implications of measures to address COVID-19. With several colleagues, Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) professor Jonathan D. Moreno examines lessons from the Cold War about vaccine nationalism and vaccine populism. And he explores the implications of COVID-19 health surveillance measures for data privacy in a post-pandemic world. Rachele Hendricks-Sturrup, instructor for a behavioral economics lab in the Master of Health Care Innovation program, surveys a framework from the Future of Privacy Forum for insulating “groups at risk of discrimination or ostracism at home or within their communities” from the potential negative consequences of more extensive health data collection.

Learn more about COVID-19, privacy, surveillance, and human rights from these sources:

Lessons for Drug Development

April 5, 2022

Faculty associated with MEHP Online are publishing on drug development and COVID-19. Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) professor Jonathan D. Moreno, along with bioethicist Franklin G. Miller, argues that the Nuremberg Code offers “valuable guidance for assessing the ethics” of challenge trials, particularly with respect to “acceptable limits to research risks and the social value of research necessary” to justify risks with human subjects. Assistant faculty director Holly Fernandez Lynch and colleagues explore how the successes and failures of drug development and access during COVID-19 could offer lessons for non-pandemic diseases. And with a different team, Prof. Fernandez Lynch surveys what COVID-19 can teach us about equitably providing patients with opportunities to participate in clinical trials.

Learn more about the ethics of drug development from these sources:

Minors and Vaccination

February 23, 2022

Two faculty members associated with MEHP Online have recent publications about ethical and legal issues related to minors and vaccination. Assistant Faculty Director Holly Fernandez Lynch and colleagues explore the implications of off-label prescribing of COVID-19 vaccines to children. Dominic A. Sisti, who teaches in our continuing education programs, contends that “children and adolescents have the capacity to understand and reason about low-risk and high-benefit health care interventions. State laws should therefore authorize minors to consent to COVID-19 vaccination without parental permission.” 

Learn more about minors and vaccination from these sources: 

And get a current perspective from Holly Fernandez Lynch and Steven Joffe, MHCI instructor and Interim Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy: 

A New National Strategy

January 21, 2022

Six former advisors to President Biden’s transition team, including MEHP Online professor Ezekiel J. Emanuel, have outlined a plan in JAMA viewpoints to transform the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of current technological barriers to eliminating SARS-CoV-2 altogether, they advocate for a “new normal” strategy that addresses circulating respiratory viruses as a class. Their recommendations include:

  • Strengthening public health infrastructure.
  • Extending vaccination efforts.
  • Supporting development of additional therapeutics.
  • Building technological infrastructure to coordinate and enhance the effectiveness of testing and disease surveillance.
  • Building trust in public health authorities’ recommendations for disease mitigation strategies.

Their full approach is publicly available from these sources:

Update on March 10, 2022: A team made up of more than two dozen of the world’s best epidemiologists, pharmacologists, virologists, immunologists, and policy experts created a report to offer Americans guidance and to lay out a roadmap for advancing to the next normal. The report offers recommendations across various categories including testing & surveillance, safer indoor air, schools, childcare, worker safety, public health, and more.

  • "Getting to and Sustaining the Next Normal: A Roadmap for Living with COVID" by a team of 53 authors and contributors, shepherded by Vice Provost for Global Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania and former Biden Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board member Ezekiel J. Emanuel, and includes former officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations, March 2022.

Contact us

Ethics, Policy, and COVID-19 is a special production from the faculty and online education team of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. 

If you’re not yet on the MEHP Online email list, sign up to receive a message when new content is posted.  We won’t share your information (see our privacy policy).