COVID Vaccine Equity Research Dialogues (CoVEReD): Angela Shen, ScD, MPH
March 23, 2021
With the rate of vaccinations accelerating, President Biden made the bold declaration that by May 1, 2021, all Americans should be eligible for a vaccine. What does this mean for the existing state vaccine distribution and allocation plans, and for equity concerns?
According to Angela Shen, expanded eligibility for the vaccine should prompt us to "focus on the fair, as opposed to the fast." Harald Schmidt agrees that the equity story is far from over. "We still want to think about how we make sure that more vulnerable people get vaccines first." Schmidt notes that individuals who have thus far been unable to obtain the vaccine have also suffered the most from the economic shock and are often at greater risk of contracting COVID-19. Prioritizing these disadvantaged will advance both public health and equity, even as all Americans become eligible for the vaccine.
Careful tracking and monitoring of who is getting vaccinated may be even more important beyond May 1, Shen adds. A recent Health Affairs report found that only 28% of state health department COVID-19 websites reported county-level vaccine administration by race and ethnicity. Better data remains crucial "to see which communities are unvaccinated or under-vaccinated."
Thus, as Alison Buttenheim notes, "May 1 is not the end of anything, it really is going to be the start."
Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, University of Pennsylvania
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