Opinion: Roll out vaccines using honor code

Distributing COVID-19 vaccines according to an honor code could minimize bureaucratic red tape and help hasten the rollout, according to experts from Ariadne Labs and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

In a January 11, 2021, op-ed in the Boston Globe, the experts—including Kate Miller, senior scientist at Ariadne Labs and research scientist at Harvard Chan School; Rebecca Weintraub, faculty member at Ariadne Labs; and Atul Gawande, founder and chair of Ariadne Labs and a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Harvard Chan School—suggested using “self-attestation” to dole out vaccines amid scarce supply and a slow rollout. Under this scenario, vaccinators would “simply ask people seeking the vaccine to attest that they fall into a priority group,” the authors wrote. “If they attest, they’re vaccinated.”

Distributing vaccines in this way would eliminate the requirement that vaccinators verify a person’s membership in a priority group, and would ease potential barriers to access among many who are in critical need of vaccines, such as people without identification, those who are hesitant about vaccines, undocumented immigrants, and others on the margins, according to the authors.

The authors acknowledged that some people may not tell the truth about being a member of a priority group. But they noted that only a portion of vaccines would be available for self-attested access, and that the rest would still be targeted equitably to vulnerable populations. They also maintained that “the moral compass of most people—even powerful people accustomed to certain advantages—will point in the right direction.”

They wrote, “On balance, it’s better to vaccinate a few line-cutters than to erect a barrier to the most vulnerable among us.”

Gawande also spoke about the idea of using an honor code for coronavirus vaccinations in a January 12 interview on WGBH’s “Greater Boston.”

Read the Boston Globe op-ed: A vaccine honor code will work

Watch the WGBH interview: Biden COVID Adviser Pushes For Simplified Vaccine Distribution Process