Staff Writer l Palladium - May 11 2021
Can Vaccines Achieve COVID-19 Racial Equity?

Despite best efforts over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disproportionately affect minorities across the United States. These disparities raise questions around racial equity in the healthcare sector and how they can be remedied in both the short term, for the vaccine rollout, and in the longer term in the face of future health crises.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), infection rates nationally among Black people are 1.1 times those of White people. Similarly, Black people who contract COVID-19 are 2.9 times more likely to be hospitalised and 1.9 times more likely to die than White people. Native American and Hispanic populations have suffered even greater disparities in COVID-19 infections, hospitalisations, and deaths.

As the Biden administration puts vaccinations the centre of its coronavirus response plan with a strong emphasis on achieving racial equity the question becomes: can an equitable vaccine rollout help to solve COVID-19 racial inequities?

To address the question, Palladium’s health modelling team utilised the VaxImpact model. The proprietary epidemiological model estimates the health and mortality impacts of vaccine allocations to population subgroups and geographic areas, allowing for a focus on equitable distribution of vaccine allocations aligned with desired health outcomes.

The desired health outcome for the scenarios? Creating a vaccine rollout that ensures that the percentage of cases and/or deaths is equal to or less than a racial group’s share of the overall population.

“It’s important to remember that the objective of any public health intervention is to improve health outcomes, so in looking at vaccinations and at COVID-19 racial inequities we need to focus on the impacts on cases and mortality,” notes report author Scott Moreland.

Data from the CDC and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in Michigan were used in the VaxImpact model to explore the question of achieving racially equitable health outcomes for COVID-19 in the Black population.

The team chose Michigan because the state’s Black population as a percentage of the total population (14 per cent), very closely mirrors that of the overall US population. The findings from the modelling scenarios were published in the report Can Vaccines Achieve COVID-19 Racial Equity?

The modelling scenarios show that a strategy to tackle racial inequity in COVID-19-related health outcomes cannot rely solely on vaccinations and must be seen in the larger context of a US health system and other systems that contribute to numerous inequities in the Black community, including but not limited to, the wide spectrum of pre-conditions that exacerbate the impact of COVID-19.

The pandemic has uncovered gross healthcare inequities across the country in minority communities, and COVID-19 has only served to further exacerbate them. Until these issues are remedied, vaccines alone cannot be relied up on to attain racial equity in COVID-19 related health outcomes.

Read the full report and findings and contact for more information.