kahmed1_Vincent Kalut  Photonews via Getty Images_coronavirusvaccine Vincent Kalut/Photonews via Getty Images

Can Vaccines be Allocated on Antiracist Terms?

There is no question that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected nonwhite communities. And “vaccine sovereignty” – the idea, embraced by the US and Europe, that individual governments should use public funding to obtain priority access to potential vaccines – could keep it that way.

NEW YORK – A safe and effective vaccine could play a significant role in mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, even if such a vaccine is found, it is highly unlikely that a sufficient number of doses could be produced in the next 2-3 years to ensure equitable access for everyone. So, when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, who should get it first?

Most guidelines for allocating limited supplies of vaccines would put health-care workers at the front of the line. But there is little consensus about how a COVID-19 vaccine should be allocated beyond this group.

Guidelines for allocating vaccines during an influenza pandemic, released in 2018 by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, would place certain national-security personnel at the top of the list, alongside health-care workers. This reflects the CDC’s pre-COVID-19 tendency to emphasize the securitization of health: an influenza vaccine, the guidelines state, should be allocated in a way that will “maintain national security, health care, and other essential community services.”

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