Who should be first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine? One approach is to prioritize everyone over the age of 65. This seems like an effective way to reduce the number of deaths since this population accounts for 80% of deaths from COVID-19. However, this approach can make health disparities worse. This is because making an appointment to be vaccinated requires resources that are not equally available to everyone: a rapid internet connection to make the appointment, transportation to the site, and trust in vaccine safety. How can we change this process to make access to the COVID-19 vaccine more equitable? Strategies include:
- Prioritize vaccine distribution to areas most affected by COVID-19, such as areas with the most economic hardship.
- Follow the science by targeting groups with the highest risks from COVID-19; for example, Latino adults with diabetes.
- Partner with local health care institutions that serve people impacted the most by COVID-19 (such as racial and ethnic minorities) to promote vaccine awareness locally.
- Create ways to distribute vaccines to people without transportation; for example, vans to deliver vaccines to homebound elderly people or vaccination sites that are near public transportation.
- Simplify registration so that it does not require internet or digital platforms.
Many states have already put these strategies into practice. However, in the push to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible, the U.S. cannot leave equity behind.
At Sansum Diabetes Research Institute, we are working toward equitable and science-based vaccination by focusing on a group with one of the highest risks from COVID-19: older Latino adults with diabetes. SDRI began vaccinating this very high-risk group on January 27, 2021. To address barriers of time, technology, and trust, SDRI’s trained bilingual Latino Community Scientists (also known as Especialistas) liaise with community members to raise awareness around vaccination against the COVID-19 virus. Based on vaccine supply and guidance from the local and state public health departments, SDRI hopes to expand vaccination to other Latinos with diabetes at a younger age, those who are essential workers, and also non-Latinos with diabetes. Check this site for general information and daily updates about Latinos and COVID.
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