Is It Lawful and Ethical to Prioritize Racial Minorities for COVID-19 Vaccines? | Health Disparities | JAMA | JAMA Network
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October 14, 2020

Is It Lawful and Ethical to Prioritize Racial Minorities for COVID-19 Vaccines?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
  • 2O’Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law, Georgetown University, Washington, DC
  • 3Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA. Published online October 14, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.20571

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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    1 Comment for this article
    Native Americans?
    Jean Crawford, MD | Where is the coverage of Native Americans?? They are particularly at risk and obviously ignored, shame on you!
    Where is the mention of Native Americans in your article, a group who is stricken with the coronavirus via their confinement to a circumscribed space, (i.e. the reservation) and the government's lack of response to their requests for corona testing kits and other necessary medical supplies?