“It is racial inequality – housing inequality, employment inequality, inequalities in access to health care – that caused the underlying diseases,” Dr. Matthew in an interview. “It is wrong. And it is the inequality that requires us to prioritize through race and ethnicity.”
Harald Schmidt, assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania, is not a member of the committee, but has suggested other ways in which vaccine prioritization might work. He predicts that the courts would strike down any explicitly based guidelines about race and ethnicity. Instead, he has proposed using an index that takes into account education, income, employment and housing quality to rank neighborhoods by socio-economic disadvantage which he says could serve as a good power of attorney.
“It is imperative that we pay attention to how Covid has affected the health of minorities differently; otherwise, it unites the inequalities that we have seen, said Dr. Schmidt.
There may be significant differences in how racial and ethnic groups view vaccines. A new Pew study found that just over half of black adults said they would definitely or probably get a coronavirus vaccine if one was available today, while 44 percent said they wouldn’t. Among Latin American and white adults, 74 percent said they would receive the vaccine, while about a quarter said they would not.
“Because of Tuskegee and structural racism in the health care system, you have to make a case much stronger for the African-American population,” Dr. Schmidt.
Whoever prioritizes the first doses, it doesn’t matter if the vaccines don’t work for the demographics. And it will not be determined unless the vaccine studies themselves include these groups. To date, several vaccine candidates have entered final phase 3 studies.
At a Senate hearing last week, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the CDC director, and Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institute for Health, the need for race and other diversity in the trials.