Helene Gayle in COVID Vaccine Equity Research Dialogues (CoVEReD)
Helene Gayle in COVID Vaccine Equity Research Dialogues (CoVEReD)
June 21, 2021
Helene Gayle
As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout began, equity was front and center—and it still is, on both a national and global level. In our seven-part series of conversations, conducted from February–June 2021, we explored how equity influenced the initial allocation of vaccines in the U.S., how it affected who received vaccines as the supply expanded, and the continued need to focus resources on vulnerable populations to address the global health threat of the pandemic.
Today, we are pleased to release the final edition of our COVID Vaccine Equity Research Dialogues (CoVEReD) featuring Helene Gayle, MD, MPH, alongside hosts Alison Buttenheim, PhD, MBA, and Harald Schmidt, PhD, MA to discuss our progress toward vaccine equity and the work that remains ahead.
Alison Buttenheim, Harald Schmidt
Helene Gayle is President and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust, and Co-Chair of the Committee on Equitable Allocation of Vaccine for the Novel Coronavirus for The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 
Watch the 14-minute video discussion below, followed by a written episode overview, and links to previous episodes.
CoVEReD Video
Episode Overview
With nearly half of the U.S. population fully vaccinated and case rates remaining low, COVID-19 restrictions have begun to lift throughout the U.S., allowing cautious optimism for this summer. As we continue to strive to reach President Biden’s goal of 70% of the U.S. population being vaccinated by July 4, 2021, this final CoVEReD episode looks at our progress toward vaccine equity and the work that remains ahead.

Helene Gayle explains that vaccination rates have been uneven, both geographically and along racial and ethnic lines. In Chicago, for example, vaccination rates have varied from under 30%, particularly among African American populations, to 90% in other areas. Though states like those in the Northeast have exceeded vaccination targets, the national averages obscure state differences. Gayle points out that we are all still at risk, given quite low vaccination rates in some states and travel between states.

Because those most likely to get the vaccine have already received it, Gayle argues that it will be harder to reach unvaccinated individuals. Access to lotteries and sweepstakes, which have appeared in many areas, may also be unequal. 

Where do we go from here? There remains a role for allocating resources through a disadvantage index to reach these individuals in an equitable manner. Global equity also remains a large concern. To address the gaps that persist both throughout the U.S. and the world, Gayle said, “we have to stay the course” and “continue to do what it takes…to make sure we’re getting [the vaccine] to the people who truly are at greatest risk.”
Previous CoVEReD Episodes
Jennifer Tolbert, MPH, MSW, Kaiser Family Foundation
Paul Delamater, PhD, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Angela Shen, ScD, MPH, Vaccine Education Center, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Ruqaiijah Yearby, JD, MPH, Saint Louis University
Susan Goold, MD, MHSA, MA, Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, University of Michigan

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