The Shortcomings of BMI As a Vaccine Eligibility Metric

Should we really be putting high BMI in the same category as pulmonary disease and cancer?

Image: Andriy Onufriyenko/Getty Images

We should be clear that this is what we’re vaccinating against when we tell fat people that their body is a “comorbidity,” a disease waiting to ally itself with this other disease, and conspire against their survival.

With that as our baseline, it’s no surprise that the Covid-19 pandemic has also intertwined itself with medical weight stigma, as I reported recently. First came the flurry of research linking weight with worse Covid-19 outcomes: In April 2020, the CDC released a report noting that 48% of patients then hospitalized with Covid-19 had a BMI in the “obese” range (compared with 42% of Americans as a whole). A French study published in the journal Obesity around the same time found that Covid-19 patients with a BMI of 35 or higher were more likely to need a ventilator. Most recently, an analysis of 6,916 people with Covid-19 in California found that men with a BMI above 40 had a higher risk of dying from the disease than those with a BMI in the normal range, according to findings published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. More medical reports — and an even bigger storm of media coverage — followed.

Author of THE EATING INSTINCT and forthcoming FAT KID PHOBIA. Newsletter: Everything else: