Equitable COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution (Part 2): Race vs. Racism
Since the Trump administration released the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan for Americans, Trump himself has said that the COVID-19 vaccine will be released in October. However, Dr. Robert Kadlec of the Department of Health and Human Services says otherwise: to expect a vaccine by January 2021 to “ensure accelerating production of safe and effective vaccines.” Leading up, there had been significant discussion on fair and equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, especially with age gaps and race gaps of COVID-19 death rates.
Health Equity is Deeply Intertwined with the Impact of COVID-19.
The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) has said that in the United States and worldwide, the pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on people who are already disadvantaged by virtue of their race and ethnicity, age, health status, residence, occupation, socioeconomic condition, or other contributing factors. As of October 2, 2020, it has provided a final report for the equitable allocation of COVID-19 vaccines.
Considering that minorities have higher rates of disease and higher death rates, Dr. William Foege with NAM has said that it would have been expected for a recommendation on the inoculation of minorities first. In other words, we would expect that equitable vaccination means vaccinating minorities first since they historically have not been given equal access. However, they did not do that because they decided on a perspective of race vs. racism. Racism has prevailed for centuries and is the underlying root cause of the healthcare disparities that minorities face whether that cause social or personal vulnerabilities.
SARS- Co-V2 knows no concept of color or race- it only knows social and personal vulnerabilities. Personal vulnerabilities include heart failure, kidney failure, obesity, cancer, and more. Social vulnerabilities include overcrowded living spaces, poverty, unemployment, people subjected to work conditions, children going to school, and more. So instead of prioritizing vaccines for minorities to target the racism problem in the U.S, they have sought to target these risk factors associated with the race which will help combat racism.
NAM has, from the beginning, looked at ethical applications. With foundational ethical principles of maximum benefit, equal concern, mitigation of health inequities, and foundational procedural principles of fairness and evidence-based transparency, it then sought allocation phases. As such, these allocation phases will put healthcare professionals as a priority because they can help more Americans: maximum benefit for the whole.
Now, since the national guideline has officially been released, state and local governments will be looking to them for the equitable allocation of the COVID-19 vaccine. While the state or structural entities work, we can be involved in promoting fair access to the vaccine. This means involving ourselves in community and faith-based organizations and working together to ensure people have access to resources, affordable testing, and medical and mental health care. Let us partake in communities or programs that allow racial and minority groups to live, learn, work, play, and worship together like the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), Transformation Church, AACC( Asian American Christian Collaborative), and more.
Racism won’t be fixed overnight by structural institutions. It is more important than ever for us to do our part as with COVID-19, and it doesn’t stop after this pandemic subsides either.
Vaccine Allocation for COVID-19
Final Public Report Webinar for Equitable COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution: