News Analysis Dec 18, 2020 6:38 PM EST

CDC says it may not vaccinate the elderly first because it does not 'promote' social justice

The US CDC intends to recommend that essential workers get the new vaccine to guard against the coronavirus before those over 65 do. Those over 65 are the most vulnerable to the virus.

CDC says it may not vaccinate the elderly first because it does not 'promote' social justice
Libby Emmons Brooklyn, NY
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The US CDC, headed by Robert Redfield, intends to recommend that essential workers get the new vaccine to guard against the coronavirus before those over 65 do. Those over 65 are the most vulnerable to the virus.

Their reasons for not prioritizing the elderly are because the elderly are not a racially diverse enough crowd, and essential workers have more racial diversity.

The elderly, those over 65, who have died at a massively disproportionate rate to those in younger age groups, are also primarily white. This is why The New York Times has consistently reported on the impact of the coronavirus on racial populations instead of the ages of those effected—to show that the virus has an outsized impact on black and brown people. Adding in the elderly, those old whites who have died as a result of the virus, would skew the narrative that says the virus mostly affects minority populations.

In a series of slides issued by the CDC, the distribution of who gets the vaccine first is done through rating different groups based on three metrics: science, implementation, and ethics.

Science means, essentially, the deaths and infections that would be prevented by inoculating that group first. This is definitely true of inoculations for those over 65.

But while the science shows that inoculating those over 65 would save the most lives, this is not the top metric used to decide who should get the vaccine.

Those over 65 are the one who are more likely to end up contracting the virus, putting others, including essential workers, at risk. The metrics show that inoculating the elderly would save the most lives. Oddly, the authors of the study have decided that the "differences among the 3 strategies is minimal."

The final metric, ethics, which is then split into three additional categories, ends up being the determining factor in prioritizing the younger, essential workers over American grandmothers and grandfathers.

The quantifier of ethics is then broken down into three ethical principles: Maximize benefits and minimize harms, promote justice, and mitigate health inequities.

Essential workers meet all three of those arbitrarily determined criteria, while adults with high-risk medical conditions and those who are over 65 don't, primarily on account of their skin color.

In fact, those adults with high-risk medical conditions already have healthcare, so they do not suffer from health inequity, just health problems. Essential workers, by definition, are unable to work from home, which is also a factor. Those over 65, regardless of health, just do not meet enough of the three criteria to get vaccinated first, even though, with their numbers down, the numbers of cases and deaths would be down exponentially across the board.

The CDC will make the final determination on Sunday, but so far in the tally, healthcare workers and essential workers will receive the vaccine prior to the most vulnerable group of Americans, the aged.

The UK and Canada are both planning to inoculate the elderly first, despite their racial make-up.

Per the CDC, there have been 16,756,581 cases of COVID-19 in the US, and 306,427 deaths. Over 221,000 of those deaths have been in the over 65 demographic, or: 72 percent of the deaths have been of the demographic that the CDC does not want to inoculate first.

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