Some states prioritize blacks, Hispanics over whites for COVID-19 vaccines, report says

"Systemic health and social inequities have put many people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk,"

Updated: December 20, 2020 - 10:51pm

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Half of U.S. states have laid out plans to prioritize black and Hispanic patients over whites as the rollout of two COVID-19 vaccines gathers steam, according to a new report.

According to an analysis by The Daily Mail, 25 states have "committed to a focus on racial and ethnic communities as they decided which groups should be prioritized in receiving a coronavirus vaccine dose." The moves follow guidance to do so by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"Some states have made even more specific plans to prioritize communities of color, with 12 states specifically mentioning efforts to partner with healthcare providers in areas with a large minority population to reach 'diverse populations,' according to the Kaiser Family Foundation," the Mail reported.

Maine, for instance, enacted a "Racial/Ethnic Minority COVID-19 Vaccination Plan" that will give preference to groups that "have experienced rates of disease that far exceed their representation in the population as a whole."

"Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put many people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19," the CDC wrote in July. "The term 'racial and ethnic minority groups' includes people of color with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. But some experiences are common to many people within these groups, and social determinants of health have historically prevented them from having fair opportunities for economic, physical, and emotional health."

On Nov. 30, the CDC released more guidance, saying "race and ethnicity are risk markers for other underlying conditions that affect health including socioeconomic status, access to health care, and exposure to the virus related to occupation, e.g., frontline, essential, and critical infrastructure workers."

According to the agency's data, blacks were 3.7 times more likely than whites to require hospitalization to treat the virus, while Hispanics were 1.2 times more likely. American Indians and Alaska natives, meanwhile, were also more likely to require hospitalization than whites.

In addition, black and Hispanic people are almost three times more likely to die from COVID-19 than whites.

The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on Dec. 2 voted to direct that healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities will be the first to get the shots in the initial rollout — once federal regulators authorize use of a vaccine. The recommendation was approved by CDC Director Robert Redfield.

But state governors have final say on how the vaccines get distributed.

Said the Mail:

"A recent study from the National Governors Association also showed that 'many states have incorporated health equity principles in their vaccination plans to varying degrees.' It reported that California, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Indiana have listed fairness, equity, or both as key principles for vaccine distribution. Oregon is also emphasizing health equity as a central pillar of its rollout, while North Carolina 'specifically cited historically marginalized populations as an early-phase critical population group.'"