Funder Priority for Vaccines: Implications of a Weak Lockean Claim

Dr Muralidharan Anantharaman1, Dr Owen Schaefer1, Ms Tess Johnson2, Professor Julian  Suvalescu2

1National University Of Singapore, , Singapore, 2University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom

The development of some COVID-19 vaccines by private companies like Moderna and Sanofi-GSK has been partly funded by various governments. While the Sanofi CEO has previously suggested that countries that fund this development ought to be given some priority in accessing vaccines, the proposal has not been taken seriously in the literature. Considerations of nationalism, sustainability, need and equitability have been more extensively discussed with respect to whether and how much a country is entitled to advance purchase orders of the vaccine under conditions of absolute scarcity. Yet, little attention has been paid to whether investment in developing a vaccine entitles a country to some priority with respect to advance orders. Moreover, some surveys show that a significant minority of some populaces do endorse priority access in exchange for investment.

This paper argues that the minority have a point: recognising funder countries’ entitlement is justified by the Weak Lockean Claim (WLC). According to the WLC, a contribution to the production of something gives them some entitlement to the resultant product. This paper will defend WLC, and address objections to the argument, including those pertaining to questions of historical injustice, vaccine ownership, and whether the WLC is redundant with nationalistic priority claims. This argument does not imply an unconstrained entitlement. Rather, contribution to development is one morally relevant factor that must be tempered by and weighed against potentially more substantial claims to priority based on need, equity and other considerations.


Murali has a BSc in Life Sciences and MA in Philsophy from the National University of Singapore as well as a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Warwick. His research interests are in Ethics, Political Philosophy and Epistemology.

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