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Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has disproportionately affected racial minorities in the United States resulting in higher rates of infection, hospitalization, and death. With a limited supply after the initial approval of a safe and effective vaccine, difficult legal and ethical choices will have to be made on priority access for individuals.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) has recommended prioritization of racial minorities who are “worse off” socioeconomically and epidemiologically.1 The World Health Organization (WHO) similarly cautioned that “colorblind” allocation frameworks could perpetuate or exacerbate existing injustices. Both NASEM and WHO urge policy makers to allocate vaccines in ways that reduce unjust health disparities.2 The ethics and legality of race-based policies in the United States have been fraught with controversy.3 This Viewpoint considers how COVID-19 vaccine priority allocations could be implemented ethically and legally.
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Schmidt H, Gostin LO, Williams MA. Is It Lawful and Ethical to Prioritize Racial Minorities for COVID-19 Vaccines? JAMA. Published online October 14, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.20571
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