Oregon advisory board, led by profs, backtracks on prioritizing COVID vaccine for minorities after realizing it's 'not legal'

Oregon’s COVID-19 committee — which includes two academics — listed communities of color as priority recipients of the vaccine.

"Racial and ethnic minoritized groups” were listed as a "critical population," according to a draft of the vaccine distribution plan.

Oregon’s COVID-19 committee — which includes two academics — previously considered prioritizing Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) vaccinations, then backtracked after realizing it wasn’t legal.

According to the January 28 and January 21 meeting minutes of the committee, the group initially planned to recommend that members of the BIPOC receive priority before the general population in receiving the vaccine, but then backtracked because “it is not legal to treat BIPOC as a separate group.” However, the minutes did reveal that the committee did consider “the needs of BIPOC communities” when drafting the recommendations.

According to Oregon’s health plan, the COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee listed “racial and ethnic minoritized groups” as a “critical population.”

A spokesperson from the Oregon Health Authority told Campus Reform that the department has “long acknowledged that communities of color have suffered disproportionately under COVID-19” and voiced a commitment “to addressing these historical and structural inequities.” Indeed, the Oregon Health Authority also said that the state’s plan is “guided by this concern and focuses on the inequitable burden of disease and other negative health conditions on communities of color.”

[RELATED: Cornell offers ‘person of color’ exemption for flu vaccine requirement]

The COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee — which has 27 members — supported this approach. Two of its members — Derick Du Vivier and Kelly Gonzales — are professors at Oregon Health & Science University.

At other points in the Oregon vaccine plan, the committee recognizes “structural racism” and “the colonization of relationships” as contributing factors to “overall worse health outcomes.” The plan also highlights “addressing power, privilege, and race” and “prioritizing community” — especially communities impacted by “historical and contemporary racism” — as core tenets of the state’s approach to vaccination.

Campus Reform again asked the Oregon Health Authority whether people from racial minority groups would be favored in the state’s vaccine plan.

Owens referred Campus Reform to information about racial health disparities from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Race and ethnicity are factors used by health and public health professionals to understand the impacts of diseases and many other conditions that impact human health and population health,” he wrote. “Health plans take into account how health issues impact individuals and groups.”

[RELATED: OHSU employees demand MORE after newly announced race-related actions]

Owens added that the Oregon Health Authority “will review the operational and legal dimensions of the Vaccine Advisory Committee’s recommendations” before referring them to Governor Kate Brown.

Campus Reform has repeatedly reported how systemic racism is being addressed by academia in terms of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution,

The editorial board of Emory University’s student newspaper, for example, wrote that COVID-19 vaccines should be mandatory for all students — with the exception of Black, Indigenous, People of Color due to a history of “historical maltreatment” of such individuals.

[RELATED: Emory student newspaper: Require COVID-19 vaccine, but not for minority students]

Campus Reform reached out to DuVivier and Gonzales for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft