Vaccine priority setting: By men or by machines?


Posted by on January 31, 2021  /  0 Comments

Here a technology critic from the United States, objecting to the use of algorithms to decide who gets vaccinated ahead of others. She appears to favor human priority setting.

“The algorithm did it” has become a popular defense for powerful entities who turn to math to make complex moral choices. It’s an excuse that recalls a time when the public was content to understand computer code as somehow objective. But the past few years have demonstrated conclusively that technology is not neutral and instead reflects the values of those who design it, and it is fraught with all the usual shortcomings and oversights that humans suffer in our daily lives.

Here’s me, trying to gently nudge the government to create some safeguards against the politically and professionally connected jumping the line:

The fears are that those who are connected or corrupt will get free vaccines, even if they are not on the priority list; or that vaccines obtained for the free channel will be diverted to the pay channel, allowing private providers to make excessive profits which will feed the corruption. The remedy is transparency. The COVID19 vaccine deployment plan should be made public as soon as possible. The records of those who are given the free vaccines along with details of eligibility should be open for review.

And here’s a report of people jumping the line in the US, even in the absence of algorithms.

So it’s not one or the other, but the solution that best for the circumstances.

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