Issues and Insights on COVID-19

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, 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

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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. 

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Current Content

Vaccine Distribution: Age and Ethics

Opinion: Age-based vaccine distribution is not only unethical. It’s also bad health policy.by Emily A. Largent, JD, PhD, RN; Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, PhD; and Govind Persad, JD, PhD, Washington Post

Published March 9, 2021 

In this op-ed, Penn professors Emily A. Largent and Zeke Emanuel, along with Govind Persad, advocate for equitable distribution of vaccines by considering various high-risk factors—not only age—when crafting ethical policy for vaccine distribution. “Simplicity and speed are valuable,” they state, “but equity and fairness should not be abandoned in the pursuit.” 

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Rationing Care – A free, 2-hour continuing education course by Zeke Emanuel and MEHP Online Education.

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Disadvantage Indices and Equitable Vaccine Allocation

Disadvantaged communities have been hit disproportionately hard by COVID-19. Vaccination offers an opportunity to address both social justice and public health needs—if policies and distribution practices make equity and allocation central issues. Faculty member Harald Schmidt shares a way to move forward using disadvantage indices to address 1) how vaccines are allocated to states and 2) how vaccines are allocated to the population with states.

Harald Schmidt, PhD, an Assistant Professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Penn, focuses his research on improving opportunity and reducing disadvantage for marginalized populations in health promotion and health care priority setting.

Disadvantage Indices and Equitable Vaccine Allocation

Posted February 26, 2021

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Related Material

Disadvantage Indices Can Help Achieve Equitable Vaccine Allocation” by Harald Schmidt, PhD. STAT. February 1, 2021.  

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Strategies for National COVID-19 Vaccine Promotion

Behaviorally Informed Strategies for a National COVID-19 Vaccine Promotion Program” by Kevin G. Volpp, MD, PhD; George Loewenstein, PhD; Alison M. Buttenheim, PhD, MBA, JAMA Network

Published December 14, 2020

The COVID-19 vaccine is rolling out slowly and unevenly across the US. In this viewpoint from JAMA Network, faculty member Kevin G. Volpp, MD, PhD and co-authors propose five strategies informed by behavioral science to promote COVID-19 vaccination nationwide. They share implementation considerations to help drive safe and effective uptake and acceptance.

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COVID-19: Transmissions, Risks, and Reopenings

What have we learned in the several months since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the WHO? Zeke Emanuel answers the following questions:

  • How does COVID-19 spread?
  • What risk factors increase exposure of COVID-19 transmission—and what activities have lower or higher risk?
  • What are superspreader events?
  • How can schools and businesses be reopened safely?

Zeke Emanuel is a highly sought-after expert in health care, advising the Obama Administration and the WHO. He is a global voice of knowledge and reason during the pandemic—and a visionary in online education for health care professionals.

COVID-19: Transmissions, Risks, and Reopenings

Posted October 30, 2020

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Related Material

COVID-19 Risk Index (graphic mentioned in the video)

K-12 Relative Risk Index

School Opening and COVID-19: Medical, Educational, and Policy Considerations (panel discussion moderated by Holly Fernandez Lynch, JD, MBe, recorded December 18, 2020)

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Ethics, COVID-19, and Caring for Children

Caring for children during the COVID-19 pandemic has raised a number of ethical challenges. In this recorded webinar, panelists explore the following topics: 

  • Appropriate oversight for innovative therapeutic approaches outside the research context 
  • Mitigating the impact of the pandemic for pediatric patients suffering from other diseases and conditions  
  • Ethically including children in vaccine research. 

The moderator and panelists are associated with Penn’s Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy—Assistant Professor Holly Fernandez Lynch, JD, MBe; Professor Chris Feudtner, MD, PhD, MPH; and Interim Chair and Professor Steven Joffe, MD, MPH—and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia—Clinical Nurse Specialist Kimberly Mason, MSN, RN, CNS, PCNS-BC; and Attending Physician and Research Director Dr. Feudtner

Ethics, COVID-19, and Caring for Children

Recorded December 11, 2020

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COVID-19 Vaccine Emergency Use Authorization

The Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Emergency Use Authorization: Five takeaways” by Katherine Unger Baillie, Penn Today

Published December 11, 2020

The COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech was the first to receive approval by the FDA for distribution in the U.S. In this article from Penn Today, Medical Ethics faculty member Holly Fernandez Lynch, JD, MBe, answers questions about the emergency use authorization (EUA) process and its impact.

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Leadership in a Time of Uncertainty and Change

Starting with the evidence-based statement that during times of uncertainty and change, leaders’ decisions have greater impact, Mike Useem offers expert guidance for leaders today. Topics include: 

  • Personal leadership strategies for making effective decisions
  • How organizational architecture and culture drive strategy
  • Creating a mission-driven plan 
  • The qualities of a complete leader

Michael Useem, PhD, is a Professor of Management and Faculty Director of the Leadership Center and McNulty Leadership Program at the Wharton School. 

Atul Kalanuria, MD, FACP, MHCI, is a neurointensivist at the University of Pennsylvania and an alumnus of the Master of Health Care Innovation at Penn.

Leadership in a Time of Uncertainty and Change

Posted November 10, 2020

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Related Material

It’s Your Leadership Momentfrom Knowledge@Wharton by Michael Useem, PhD, published March 30.

In this opinion piece published by Knowledge@Wharton, Michael Useem, PhD, addresses:

  • the potential for leadership at all levels 
  • the three most essential leadership actions, with recent examples from various industries and government 
  • a personal checklist for exercising your own leadership.
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Narrative in an Epidemic

Narrative offers a powerful resource during COVID-19, as demonstrated by exploring poems on the themes diagnosis, pain, vigil, and eulogy written by Raymond Carver, Emily Dickinson, and Thom Gunn.

Bioethicist Lance Wahlert, PhD, teaches in both the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy and the English Department.

Narrative in an Epidemic

Posted June 8, 2020

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Disability, Rationing, and COVID-19

About 1 in 4 American adults lives with some type of disability. How might their conditions influence decisions about COVID-19 care when ventilators, for example, are in great demand and short supply?

Emily A. Largent, JD, PhD, RN, is the Emanuel and Robert Hart Assistant Professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. 

Disability, Rationing, and COVID-19

Posted April 27, 2020

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Related material

"Ethics of Reallocating Ventilators in the COVID-19 Pandemic" by Andrew Peterson, Emily A. Largent, and Jason Karlawish. BMJ. May 12, 2020.

The Ruderman White Paper on Fair Resource Allocation During the COVID-19 Pandemic by Dominic Sisti, Joseph Stramando, and Hanna Shaul Bar Nissim. Ruderman Family Foundation. April 2020.

Office of Civil Rights (OCR) Bulletin on Civil Rights Laws and HIPAA Flexibilities That Apply During the COVID-19 Emergency,” March 28, 2020

OCR Resolves Civil Rights Complaint Against Pennsylvania After it Revises its Pandemic Health Care Triaging Policies to Protect Against Disability Discrimination,” April 16, 2020

The Way We Ration Ventilators Is Biased” by Harald Schmidt. New York Times. April 15, 2020. 

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Other Relevant Resources

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