Prof: Give COVID-19 vaccine to essential workers first; 'older populations are whiter'

A professor at the University of Pennsylvania argue that essential workers should get the coronavirus vaccine before the elderly because "older populations are whiter."

He also said that the CDC should implement the "social vulnerability index" when distributing the vaccine.

A professor at the University of Pennsylvania argued in a comment to a newspaper that essential workers should get the coronavirus vaccine before older Americans because “older populations are whiter.”

The professor, Harald Schmidt, made the comment when talking with The New York Times about who should get the coronavirus vaccine first, and suggested that the Center for Disease Control implement its “social vulnerability index,” which according to the New York Times, uses different measures to determine how quickly a given community will need help.

“Older populations are whiter,” Schmidt told the Times. “Society is structured in a way that enables them to live longer. Instead of giving additional health benefits to those who already had more of them, we can start to level the playing field a bit.”

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The Mayo Clinic describes older adults as one of the groups that has a more serious risk of developing a more severe case of the coronavirus.

Justin Greenman, a University of Pennsylvania senior, however, disagreed with Schmidt, saying that it’s imperative the elderly get the vaccine first.

“I would say that while I appreciate the concerns raised by Dr. Schmidt, and it is imperative we protect our essential workers, I believe no one is more vulnerable than our elderly populations,” Greenman said. 

“I have a 95-year-old grandmother in a private facility, and while they have been lucky to have only a few cases, many facilities, especially state or VA facilities have been absolutely decimated,” Greenman said.

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A recent study has shown that “42 percent of U.S. COVID-19 deaths have occurred in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.”

“Many essential workers are entitled to and accessing protections from the virus, likely not enough, but many of these elderly individuals have little to nothing. I know from my own grandmother how much they are suffering from isolation from their families and each other,” Greenman said. “To throw race into it, likely misleading given dynamics in public facilities, seems misguided and I wish Penn was not associated with the statement.”

After receiving backlash for his comments, Schmidt somewhat walked back his remarks, tweeting that he “never espoused race-only prioritization.”

Campus Reform contacted Schmidt and the University of Pennsylvania but did not receive responses in time for publication. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @CWTremo