We cannot repeat these grave mistakes in our distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. The administration has a chance to get this right by developing a distribution plan that prioritizes health equity.
As study after study has shown, this disease hits certain populations harder than others. Front-line healthcare providers, seniors (particularly those in skilled-nursing facilities), individuals with underlying illnesses at any age, essential workers who cannot work from home, and communities of color are at highest risk of becoming infected, getting severely sick, and dying from COVID-19.
That is why the administration must aggressively and immediately pursue coordinated, strategic vaccine distribution efforts that prioritize these individuals and are based on science and public health expertise. We will not get this pandemic fully under control in our country if it’s not under control for every community, especially those at highest risk for getting and spreading COVID-19.
Health equity must be a priority—not an afterthought—in the national allocation and distribution plan for a COVID vaccine.
The administration’s plan must address: What principles will guide the prioritization of vaccine distribution? What factors are being taken into account in formulating the vaccine distribution plan? How will the amount, timeline and location of distribution reflect these priorities? And then how and when will the amount, timeline and location of vaccine distribution be made transparent to the public?
We cannot wait until the vaccine is ready to start thinking about distribution objectives. The time is now to create a nationwide plan that will save the most lives and end the pandemic as quickly as possible by prioritizing vulnerable populations at highest risk of getting infected and dying from COVID-19, rather than leaving it up to the highest bidder or prioritizing wealthier, low-risk populations.
Without this approach, the administration will exacerbate health disparities, prolong the pandemic, put more lives at risk and worsen the health of our economy.