This case is hypothetical and does not involve real patients or actual entities.
A long-running otolaryngology surgical teaching mission to Haiti was postponed in 2020 due to a combination of Haitian travel restrictions and American-based university travel bans during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Several months have passed since the postponement of this recurring trip, and the local Haitian ear, nose, and throat (ENT) team has reached out to the international surgical teaching team to express their desire for surgical mission trips to return. The backlog of patients that the local team feels could not be treated without assistance continues to grow.
The COVID-19 vaccine is now available in the United States, and most US-based health care practitioners have been vaccinated, including all medical volunteers involved in this trip. University-based travel bans have also been lifted. Few Haitian health care providers have been vaccinated. Local Haitian travel restrictions are no longer being enforced, and it is legally possible to travel to the island. The international team has obtained enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to run a self-sufficient trip, but local PPE resources remain scarce.
Should the international surgical team restart mission work at this time? If so, what criteria need to be met for humanitarian organizations to provide safe and ethical care in the COVID-19 era when global inequality remains regarding vaccine distribution?