Health officials announced the COVID-19 vaccine will initially prioritize healthcare workers along with nursing home patients and employees, signaling the first of a series of steps in curbing a pandemic that has upended life at every turn.
U.K. health officials lunged forward Wednesday, announcing that Pfizer’s vaccine distribution would begin next week with healthcare workers and nursing facilities also being the first recipients.
CDC officials hinted the next group to receive the vaccine should be essential workers comprised of 87 million people in America, followed by adults with pre-existing conditions most susceptible to infection, The New York Times reports. However, the decision on how the vaccines roll out will be left up to state healthcare officials and governors.
The revelation leaves a pin in a conversation around how medical authorities will address distributing the virus to Black communities, disproportionately ravaged by the virus and rightfully cautious due to long-held racist practices in medicine.
1 in 1,000 Black Americans have already died in this pandemic, which means Black people are dying at twice the rate of white residents. A new poll found that over one-third of Black people in America have lost someone to the virus, as it is now the third leading cause of death among Black communities.
Frontline workers primarily come from Black and communities of color, so distributing the vaccine to healthcare workers confronts one portion of the scale. Experts at the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) proposed that distribution could be staged according to zip code, allowing Black communities the safety of backlash for being prioritized, while also addressing the needs of low-income communities.
The healthcare industry is primarily white, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KKF). In 2019 18.6 million people were working in the field comprised of different titles and functions. 60 percent were white, while 16 percent where Black. Hispanic health care workers made up 13 percent and Asian workers made up seven percent.
“Black and Hispanic health care workers made up relatively larger shares of aides and personal care workers and direct contact support workers. Black and Hispanic workers also accounted for larger shares of health care workers in home health care, and Black workers made up a relatively larger share of workers in skilled nursing facility or other residential care settings,” KKF’s report continues.
But the timing of when Americans can expect to receive a vaccine is indefinite as the FDA’s advisory committee is scheduled to meet on Dec. 10 to discuss emergency authorization for the Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine.
To date Pfizer claims their vaccine is 95 percent effective, while Moderna reports a 94 percent effectiveness rate. Federal authorities in the states say they plan to ship the first 6.4 million doses within 24 hours after the FDA’s approval, which will have to be distributed twice to those who receive it.