The urgent drive for vaccine development in the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic has prompted public and private organisations to invest heavily in research and development of a COVID-19 vaccine. Organisations globally have affirmed the commitment of fair global access, but the means by which a successful vaccine can be mass produced and equitably distributed remains notably unanswered. Barriers for low-income countries include the inability to afford vaccines as well as inadequate resources to vaccinate, barriers that are exacerbated during a pandemic. Fair distribution of a pandemic vaccine is unlikely without a solid ethical framework for allocation. This piece analyses four allocation paradigms: ability to develop or purchase; reciprocity; ability to implement; and distributive justice, and synthesises their ethical considerations to develop an allocation model to fit the COVID-19 pandemic.