The COVID-19 Vaccine Dilemma

6 Admin. L. Rev. Accord (Nov. 2020, Forthcoming)

43 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2020 Last revised: 15 Oct 2020

See all articles by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss

University of California Hastings College of the Law

Date Written: June 29, 2020


COVID-19 has led to large numbers of deaths, harms, and financial costs. Without an effective vaccine, those will continue. The pressure to find a vaccine is high; and that pressure creates a risk that the safeguards in place to assure that vaccines are safe and effective will be ignored. The U.S. has an extensive apparatus to oversee vaccine safety before and after licensing, including multiple federal committees and several monitoring systems, and that apparatus gave us, in 2020, an extraordinarily safe vaccine supply. This article explains the different pressures that push for and against using the same apparatus for COVID-19 vaccines, including the extensive harms from the disease on one side and the need for a vaccine that is, in fact, safe and effective from the other. It examines the options for speeding up the process without sacrificing too much oversight. It examines which “shortcuts” are reasonable, which may be challenging, and which are bad ideas. Finally, it addresses three messaging challenges - overselling, undersharing, and responding to misinformation - and suggests how to handle them.

Keywords: Vaccines, COVID-19, Public Health, FDA, CDC

JEL Classification: H51, I18, I28, K20

Suggested Citation

Reiss, Dorit Rubinstein, The COVID-19 Vaccine Dilemma (June 29, 2020). 6 Admin. L. Rev. Accord (Nov. 2020, Forthcoming), Available at SSRN: or

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss (Contact Author)

University of California Hastings College of the Law ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States
415-5654844 (Phone)
415-5654865 (Fax)

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