CDC officials are considering a plan to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to the most vulnerable first — including people of color

covid vaccine
A photo illustration show a syringe. Argentina was selected to test a vaccine against COVID-19, it is estimated that the clinical phases will begin in August. Carol Smiljan/NurPhoto via Getty Images
  • Experts at the Centers for Disease Control are considering a plan that would distribute vaccines to the most vulnerable in the population first, The New York Times reported.

  • The plan would look to set aside vaccines to distribute in highly hit areas, usually areas that have a large population of people of color.

  • People of color have seen higher rates of infection and death from COVID-19.

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Experts advising the Director of the Centers for Disease Control are looking at a measure that would widely distribute a COVID-19 vaccine first to the highest hit areas, usually, areas with a large percentage of people of color, The New York Times reported.

The CDC advisory group said it would be just and fair to set aside the limited supply for this group since that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

"I see this as a seismic shift," Harald Schmidt, an assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania told The Times. "We can't go back to colorblind allocation."

Business Insider previously reported that Black Americans and people of color have been infected with and have died from COVID-19 at a much higher rate. There are a number of factors for this including already prevalent health disparities. African-Americans and those of color have a higher rate of underlying conditions due to "structural factors including health care access, density of households, unemployment, pervasive discrimination, and others," one study found.

"Opportunity and exposure are not equally distributed, especially by race, in this country," Dr. Camara Jones, an epidemiologist and physician with affiliations at Morehouse, Emory, and Harvard universities, told Business Insider.

Additionally, people of color were more likely to be more represented in public-facing jobs that were deemed essential.

The proposed vaccine distribution plan has the US divided into four groups. When supplies are short, the first phase of distribution would go to a group comprised of health care workers including nursing assistants and others working in nursing homes. The next group to get access to the vaccine would be essential workers not in healthcare. This group would include teachers, people in homeless shelters, and people who either work or are housed in correctional facilities. People older than 65 or who have pre-existing conditions could also a vaccine in this phase.

The next two phases would be rolled out to people who have less risk to COVID-19.

The Times reported that no vaccine plan would be voted on until the Food and Drug Administration either fully approves a vaccine or gives one emergency use authorization.

Once a vaccine is approved, as Poynter reports, the medical community will have to work to gain the trust of the Black community — due to historical mistrust after the mistreatment of Black men in the Tuskegee syphilis trials.

Dr. James E. K. Hildreth, from the historically Black Meharry Medical College in Nashville, told Poynter that he's taking part in one of the vaccine trials to try to send a signal to the community.

"I am going to be trying to convince people in minority communities that they should participate in a vaccine trial," he said. "I'm doing it to make the strongest statement possible, that I'm confident of the safety of the vaccines and I'm going to be in one of the studies myself."

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