Jan 28, 2021 - Health

Fauci: COVID vaccine rollout needs to prioritize people of color

Photo of Anthony Fauci speaking from behind a podium
Anthony Fauci. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci highlighted the need to address racial disparities in the COVID-19 vaccination process, per an interview with The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

What he’s saying: "I think that's the one thing we really got to be careful of. We don't want in the beginning ... most of the people who are getting it are otherwise, well, middle-class white people."

"You really want to get it to the people who are really the most vulnerable ... you don't want to have a situation where people who really are in need of it, because of where they are, where they live, what their economic status is, that they don’t have access to the vaccine."
  • "You absolutely have to respect the hesitancy of the minority population. They keep coming back and saying the history of Tuskegee," Biden's chief medical officer said, referring to a situation in the 1930s in which the federal government denied Black men in Alabama treatment for syphilis and secretly documented how the disease destroyed their bodies over decades.
  • "They don't, can't and should not forget about it, because it happened and it was shameful."
  • Biden's chief medical adviser noted that health officials must convince people of color "that the safeguards that have been put in place since then ... would make it essentially impossible for a Tuskegee situation to arise again."

The big picture: In the 16 states that have released vaccination data by race, white residents have been vaccinated at rates that are often two or three times higher than Black residents, Axios' Caitlin Owens writes.

  • People of color are at a higher risk for contracting the coronavirus and also have higher COVID-related death rates than white people.
  • Communities of color also tend to have fewer pharmacies per capita, making it more difficult to get vaccinated, and they distrust the process due to past medical malpractice.
  • Immigrants who aren’t fluent in English face additional barriers to access.

Go deeper: Communities of color falling behind in America's vaccine effort

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