One Way to Prioritize Racial Equity in Vaccine Distribution

One of the biggest stories to emerge about the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines has been that it has been wildly inequitable, just like the pandemic itself. In some states, vaccination rates among White residents are two- to threefold higher than they are for Black and Brown residents. Last week, I wrote about this disparity and what’s behind it for our sister publication, Momentum, which is dedicated to fighting anti-Black racism.

In another piece this week, I wrote that one way to close this gap and make vaccination distribution more equitable would be to include asthma as a prioritized condition.

Black and Brown communities have higher rates of asthma because of their exposure to environmental pollutants through the racist legacy of redlining neighborhoods.

Although it’s somewhat surprising, research indicates that asthma does not increase people’s risk for hospitalizations and death from Covid-19. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not currently list asthma as a preexisting condition with a higher risk for severe disease, and so most states do not include asthma on their list of conditions eligible for early vaccination.

However, given the fact that Black, Latinx, and Native American people have disproportionately suffered from Covid-19, that they have higher exposure to air pollutants that do increase the risk of serious outcomes from Covid-19, and that they have been neglected in the rollout of vaccines, including a respiratory condition that has a greater impact on these communities would be one way to begin to rectify some of these inequities and prioritize them for a change.

Health and science writer • PhD in 🧠 • Words in Scientific American, STAT, The Atlantic, The Guardian • Award-winning Covid-19 coverage for Elemental

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