The Allocation of Scarce Resources During Pandemics Internationally

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To what degree should countries prioritize themselves and their citizens over allies and other countries during unprecedented times with regards to the allocation of scarce resources? 

Allocation is the method through which something is distributed to the people in a manner utilizing first the principle of need so that those who are in more dire need of something are given what is necessary first and then equality is then introduced when something no longer becomes scarce. A resource is considered scarce when the supply of a certain resource is insufficient to fulfill the demand for it.


  1. Nonmaleficence: not intentionally cause or create harm to the patient
  2. Autonomy: the power of a person to make choices and be decision-making out of their own free will and say in varying situations
  3. Beneficence: health care providers have a duty to be of benefit to the patient and to take steps to prevent them from harm
  4. Justice: the fairness and ruling of situations, many times with references to laws



There was no pure intention by other countries to harm the other countries during the pandemic they were doing their jobs to look after themselves and their citizens. As seen on ground zero in China they rapidly went into a full lockdown and isolationist behavior no questions asked. The Communist Party of China nationalized all companies including some American ones such as 3M to produce masks during the first wave and barred exports which to his day have still not resumed and are being domestically sold there. China was hogging medical masks following their first wave and countries were begging and pressuring Beijing to resume exports due to their abilities of fast production and everyone’s previous reliance on China for the supplies. The original mask suppliers in China pre-pandemic were producing half of the world’s supply and in present-day, the production there has increased 12 fold. The daily production of masks went from 10 million at the beginning of February to 115 million by the end of the month. Though companies say China is claiming virtually all mask output, the Chinese government said it had never issued a regulation prohibiting mask exports and was willing to work with other countries to share.

Countries utilized their autonomy to make the tough calls of whether or not to send aid to neighboring countries that were in dire need of supplies.

The benefit that is coming from the doctors and hospitals being allocated the scarce resources is that it will help them with the coming battles against COVID-19 and will have them prepared for whatever they can handle.

Distributive Justice was heavily relied on and utilized during the pandemic:

  1. To each person an equal share – equality was not utilized as much as the other due to the scarcity of resources it was based more upon the other concepts
  2. To each person according to need- need-based allocation was what many countries relied upon and used in the framework of allocations, masks and PPE were pulled from shelves when they were becoming scarce due to panic buying and were all given to hospitals to help in the fight from the frontlines, and now with the beginning of the vaccine rollout the frontline workers and those at higher risk of death or getting the virus are being vaccinated, as seen in Toronto, Ontario, they are now giving masses of vaccines to those in the highest risk neighborhoods there.
  3. To each person according to the effort- when one thinks about this effort and a person’s investment/work/ contribution done during covid has played a factor in the speed of their revival of the vaccine. Frontline workers who have put their lives on the line from the very beginning are 
  4. To each person according to contribution: contribution and effort are pretty much the same


CANADA & AMERICA: The special economic and geopolitical relationship between American and Canada is being frayed and strained by the pandemic. These two neighboring countries share the longest land border in the world, but now it has been closed for over a year. A news story ran last year telling how many nurses lived in Quebec but worked in Philadelphia. The Trump administration was holding onto many of their produced and imported masks and even threatened to block all exports to Canada, meanwhile, Canada was struggling to supply its people with the basic PPE essential. Trudeau later closed the border and began preventing these essential nurses travel to the US in retaliation. It is unknown how this issue was later resolved. Trump’s “America First” policy hurts the country’s allies and places the US above all others which was the main cause of these cold war-like scenarios playing out between the two neighboring countries.


As seen with financial aid there are many difficulties and choices that create “aid orphans,” who receive too little support relative to their circumstances and needs, and “darlings,” where the opposite is true. Taking a closer look at India for another situation of allocation, this country is home to 1.4 billion people. That is about a ninth of the total world’s population today, with over half of those people living in lower classes and poverty/homelesness. India was left to the worst of the pandemic with little aid at the beginning as cases began to surge last March. The government began trying to produce their own PPE and went into lockdown. The states appointed groups to man the allocation and attempted to help their many citizens, sadly this country could not do it alone. Left to the mercy of the virus India and many other third world countries such as Brazil have tens of thousands of deaths per day and it will only get worse. As the vaccine rollout begins worldwide these people can only pray.

image of stacks of masks in a Chinese warehouse


Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for everyone of all ages is essential to sustainable development.
To ensure this the world leaders are encouraging everyone who can to follow the pandemic protocols and new laws in place. 
Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.
This goal aligns with this topic due to the impact COVID-19 has had on the international environment. During the first wave and the worldwide lockdowns, countries began turning on one another, closing borders, and cutting off exports and aid to foreign countries. Partnerships and allies crumbled and were put to the test during COVID-19.
Goal 12 is applicable to all countries around the world during the pandemic. Panic buying of toilet paper and PPE was seen worldwide as store shelves were ripped bare when the pandemic first struck. Responsible consumption by countries is key during this crisis because everyone will need these essential resources so there is enough for everyone to fight the virus on all fronts.


Logically when you live somewhere one would expect their government to take care of them first and others second which is where the isolationist behaviors we saw with China, Canada, America, and others worked to help protect and aid their citizens above all. China took care of itself for PPE and still continues to block exports and doesn’t worry about their allies due to having very few close ones or feeling the need to send aid. We have the question then of what do we owe others?

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Nova Scotia, CAN

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