Timpka T, Nyce JM
Public Health 221 (-) 160-165 [2023-08-00; online 2023-07-16]
Despite scientific evidence that confirms their effectiveness, use of vaccines and microbiological mass testing during the COVID-19 pandemic has been associated with social and moral controversies. In this commentary, it is suggested how such conflicts originating from moral/normative imperatives can be managed in infectious disease control. This was a commentary analysis. A case example of scientific and public debate regarding infectious disease control and policy-making during the early pandemic response is first presented. The case is used to characterize how conflicts arising from moral constraints occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. These features are thereafter used as a basis for outlining a strategy for moral conflict prevention and management. A challenge for infectious disease control throughout the pandemic was how to manage persuasive initiatives originating from social forces competing with science for influence. Purposively maneuvered information distributed through social media and internet websites could predispose population factions to contest legitimate (evidence and legally based) pandemic response measures. During the pandemic, fact-based criticism of professionals responsible for infectious disease control was mixed with a critique of their moral standards and intentions so as to diminish effectiveness and credibility. Such blending could be curtailed if infectious disease control professionals are made accountable for public health decisions made in the light of prevalent scientific evidence and legislation. If the infectious disease control community would embrace the international code of medical professional ethics, this would help to deal with moral conflicts, especially ones arising from external threats, in modern public health.