Race-based COVID vaccine distribution is needed, profs say, because US is racist

Professors argued during a recent webinar that race should be a determining factor in COVID-19 distribution.

In the same webinar, the professors criticized the U.S. for it's "structural racism."

During an event with a leading bioethics journal, professors argued that race should be a determining factor in COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

During an American Journal of Bioethics webinar event, University of Denver law professor Govind Persad responded to a question about the “key ethical principles that should govern vaccine allocation” by listing “priority to the disadvantaged groups” as one of three considerations.

“You could think of it as a sort of health equity or disparity reduction principle where special attention should be paid to trying to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on groups that have been systematically disadvantaged through sources like geographic vulnerability and disadvantage, structural racism, these types of issues,” explained Persad.

Persad later elaborated on his webinar comments in a statement to Campus Reform. 

”Given that members of minority communities are dying more often and earlier in life from COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccine allocation should consider background factors that give rise to these disparities; doing so will save more lives than ignoring these disparate risks.”

Persad said doing so “poses no legal problem under the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence.”

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Race and racism were recurring themes throughout the event. Monica Peek — an associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago — argued along similar lines as Persad.

“If we want to really try and mitigate the public health impact of coronavirus in our country, we really have to use a public health approach in thinking about which are the groups that are most affected and are disparately affected,” explained Peek. “And that is racial and ethnic minorities, other socially marginalized groups.”

She continued that “because we historically have had a really hard time wrestling around issues of race and social marginalization, we have had a really hard time trying to disproportionately allocate resources to those groups.”

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“And so, that is the ethical principle that I think we really need to elevate and work on because that’s the one that we have done the least due diligence in sort of pushing through,” Peek added. “Our system of allocation assumes that there’s a level playing field, but there’s not. And so unless we purposely wrench in mechanisms for equity, what we’re going to see are disparities in outcomes.”

Later in the discussion, Peek claimed that “it’s not race, but it’s racism that puts persons of color at increased risk for COVID.”

Peek told Campus Reform that “we should think about the impact of policy on race,” but “consider the mechanisms through which racism affects BIPOC to determine vaccine policy.”

Campus Reform recently reported that other academics working as vaccine distribution advisors for the state of Oregon attempted to list “racial and ethnic minoritized groups” as a “critical population” for vaccine distribution.

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An Oregon Health Authority spokesman told Campus Reform that the department has “long acknowledged that communities of color have suffered disproportionately under COVID-19” and expressed a commitment “to addressing these historical and structural inequities.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft