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Friday, October 30, 2020

The lunatic drive for racial quotas for COVID-19 vaccines

At least two COVID-19 vaccines are scoring major successes in trials. That means a vaccine might be ready by year’s end, but not in sufficient quantity to vaccinate more than 300 million Americans. Frontline health workers and national-security personnel will be top priority, but after that, who comes next?

A federal committee is considering pushing blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans to the front of the line, ahead of whites.

Dr. José Romero, who chairs the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, wants minority groups to get favored treatment. Billionaire donor Melinda Gates likewise is pushing for blacks to get vaccinated right behind health workers but ahead of “people with underlying health conditions, and then people who are older.”

Americans need to speak up, before such a plan is adopted. If the virus surges, getting the vaccine could mean the difference between leaving your house safely or being shut-in, or even the difference between life and death. Making race a factor is unjustified by medical science and will only inflame the racial hostilities already roiling America.

If blacks were more vulnerable because of race, as they are with sickle-cell anemia, there would be a medical argument for racial preferences. But scientific data show no direct causal connection between race and COVID-19 deaths.

Scientists in the United States and Europe have plentiful data on who gets infected and who is least likely to survive COVID-19, and their findings can help prioritize who should get vaccinated.

Forget using crude racial proxies.

Who is at risk of dying? The elderly, above all, and anyone with medical conditions such as heart disease, morbid obesity, hypertension and diabetes.

People of all ethnicities can suffer from these conditions, but blacks do so disproportionately. That’s why, if they contract COVID-19, they’re more apt to need hospitalization and ICU care than infected whites, according to new research in the New England Journal of Medicine. African Americans made up 31 percent of the Louisiana population studied, but 70 percent of the infected, 77 percent of hospitalized cases and 80 percent of patients in the ICU.

New York City data show that blacks with COVID-19 are more likely to be hospitalized than whites are, largely because obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other complications make the virus more life-threatening.

ACIP should prioritize vaccinating people with these complications. Many will be black, to be sure, but they will be getting priority treatment for medical reasons, not skin color.

People who live in crowded urban areas and in multi-generational households are at higher risk of COVID-19. So are mass-transit riders and people who work in close contact with the public, such as fast-food attendants and bus drivers.

In Britain, that group is heavily Middle Eastern and East Asian. In the United States, it’s often black and Hispanic. But not always. Using race to prioritize vaccinations would result in unfair situations, like putting the black college professor who works from home ahead of the white transit worker.

Instead, the CDC committee should prioritize population-dense neighborhoods and multi-generational households, as well as highly exposed workers like ­supermarket cashiers and bus drivers.

What about claims that blacks with COVID-19 are getting inferior medical care? That’s an insult to frontline health workers of all races, and the evidence suggests it’s also untrue. In the New England Journal of Medicine study, 80 percent of patients sick enough to be in the ICU were black, but only 71 percent of those who died. In other words, blacks in the ICU had a better chance of surviving than whites in the ICU did.

The same holds true in New York City, though the data are incomplete. Black hospital patients with COVID-19 appear to survive at slightly higher rates than do hospitalized COVID-19 patients of other races.

To get Americans vaccinated — a huge challenge — we need to put aside racial politics and be guided by science. Many minorities will still go to the front of the line, but based on medical need, not woke ideology.

Betsy McCaughey is author of the forthcoming book “The Next Pandemic.”

Read More at NYPost

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