Who’s the most important in a flu pandemic?

Around 10 a.m. on Friday, you can go online and see the draft framework the Minnesota Department of Public Health is going to use to determine who gets “critical health care resources” in the event of a flu pandemic. It’s more a matter of when, not if, a pandemic hits us, the Minnesota Department of Health says.

When it does, up to 30,000 Minnesotans may die.

Who should get first crack at life-saving vaccines, drugs, or equipment such as antiviral masks? That’s what the guidelines will reveal. For example, health care workers would seem to be first in line for vaccine, but there won’t be enough vaccine, so which health care workers should get it first?

One of the things the federal government has advised states is to be prepared for strong suspicions and distrust. Guidelines also said “social worth” should be considered.

In ordinary circumstances, the distribution criterion, ‘to each according to his or her social worth,’ is not morally acceptable. However, in planning for a pandemic where the primary objective is to preserve the function of society, it is necessary to identify certain individuals and groups of persons as ‘key’ to the preservation of society and to accord to them a high priority for the distribution of certain goods such as vaccines and antiviral drugs. Identification of key individuals for this purpose must be recognized for what it is: it is a social worth criterion and its use is justified in these limited circumstances. Care must be taken to avoid extension of the evaluation of social worth to other attributes that are not morally relevant.

Here’s the Web site that will be active at 10 a.m. You’ll be able to comment on the draft framework.