The Tuskegee Vaccine

Over at Stat, a medical news web site, they are calling for giving priority to giving any new vaccines to peoples of color

Taken at face value this seems like a good idea, but when one considers the fact that all of the vaccine candidates have been developed on an accelerated schedule, with Pfizer’s recently hyped entry using a technique never used in human beings before, one can’t help but wonder if the real push for this is to use the minority community as guinea pigs, because even if some of the will be effective and without significant side effects, it is likely that some of them will not be successes:

As the U.S. edges closer to approving a vaccine for Covid-19, a difficult decision is emerging as a central issue: Should people in hard-hit communities of color receive priority access to it, and if so, how should that be done?

Frontline health workers, elderly people, and those with chronic conditions that make them especially vulnerable to Covid-19 are likely to be at the head of the line, but there is also support among public health experts for making special efforts to deliver the vaccine early on to Black, Latino, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, and Native American people — who have experienced higher rates of serious illness and death from the coronavirus.

“Having a racial preference for a Covid-19 vaccine is not only ethically permissible, but I think it’s an ethical imperative,” said Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University. “The reason is both because of historic structural racism that’s resulted in grossly unequal health outcomes for all kinds of diseases, and because Covid-19 has so disproportionately impacted the lives of people of color.”


There is also concern that some groups, especially Black people, might be hesitant to be among the first to get a vaccine, given the history of mistreatment of Black patients in medical research.

“The other challenge you have with saying, ‘We want African Americans to step up first,’  is that we don’t want people to feel that they’re being guinea pigs,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “We need to be very careful. We don’t want to give people the perception that they’re being experimented upon.”

Gee, you think? 

The criteria for distribution should be fairly straight-forward:  Where you have large outbreaks, the vaccine goes first.

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