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Fair Allocation of Vaccines, Ventilators and Antiviral Treatments: Leaving No Ethical Value Behind in Health Care Rationing

Working Paper

Parag Pathak, Tayfun Sönmez, M. Utku Unve, M. Bumin Yenmez

January 2021

COVID-19 has revealed limitations of existing mechanisms for rationing medical resources under emergency scenarios. Many argue that these mechanisms abandon various ethical values such as equity by discriminating against disadvantaged communities. Illustrating that these limitations are aggravated by a restrictive choice of mechanism, we formulate pandemic rationing of medical resources as a new application of market design and propose a reserve system as a resolution. We develop a general theory of reserve design, introduce new concepts such as cutoff equilibria and smart reserves, extend analysis of previously-known ones such as sequential reserve matching, relate these concepts to current debates, and present preliminary policy impact.