To Mitigate Racial Inequity, the CDC Wants To Vaccinate Essential Workers Before the Elderly
Deaths from COVID-19 are overwhelmingly concentrated among the elderly, and thus it would seem obvious that vaccinating older Americans should be a top priority. Yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released guidance suggesting that millions of essential workers should receive the vaccine before many people 65 and older.
Part of the reason for this, according to a CDC report, is to mitigate and racial and ethnic “health inequities.” Older Americans are disproportionately white, whereas the essential worker category includes a larger percentage of racial minorities and low-income people.
“Older populations are whiter, ” Harald Schmidt, a professor of ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania, told The New York 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.”
It’s not as if there’s a consensus that this is the right thing to do. The Times notes that this approach “runs counter to frameworks proposed by the World Health Organization, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and many countries, which say that reducing deaths should be the unequivocal priority and that older and sicker people should thus go before the workers, a view shared by many in public health and medicine.”
Indeed, this is a prime example of progressive thinking on racial justice leading otherwise intelligent people to take a position that actually hurts racial minorities. While it’s true t
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