By Hans Bader December 10, 2020
The Department of Veterans Affairs is going to give priority to black and Hispanic veterans over white and Asian veterans when administering the vaccine for COVID-19. This racial preference is unconstitutional.
The VA is doing this because it thinks blacks and Hispanics are at greater risk. But these minorities are not inherently at greater risk of contracting the virus. There is nothing special about their genes that puts them in danger.
Maybe, maybe not. We won’t know for some time. It could be that some races are naturally more gregarious than others — Darwin alluded to this.
It is just that their jobs, neighborhoods, and backgrounds tend to put them in more frequent contact with people who already carry COVID-19. So it is those characteristics — not race — that the VA can legally consider in handing out the vaccine to veterans. As the Supreme Court explained in Bartlett v. Strickland (2009), the government is supposed to use race only as a “last resort.” That’s true even when it has a better reason for using race than the VA has — like addressing a history of past governmental discrimination against a minority group. …
Also, many Blacks do not welcome the prospect of going to the head of the queue. “As a Black woman there is no way I’m lining up first for this vaccine,” wrote a New York Times reader from Clifton, Virginia, in a comment thread. “Two words: Tuskegee Study,” she added, referring to the decades-long U.S. Public Health Service study in which Black men were deprived of known treatment for syphilis to track the progress of the disease. Another reader concurred: “Black folks do NOT want the vaccine first…They do not want to be guinea pigs yet again.”
Yet the Department of Veterans Affairs says it will give the vaccine to black, Hispanic, and Native American veterans before white and Asian veterans, in its information sheet on “COVID-19 Vaccine Planning“:
What criteria will VA use to decide which Veterans get the COVID-19 vaccine first?
While we have a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines, we’ll offer vaccines to Veterans based on their risk. In addition to the risk of getting infection, risk of passing infection to others, and the risk to society if someone is unable to work, we’ll consider factors that may influence the risk of severe disease, including:
•Age. The risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 increases with age.
•Race and ethnicity. Data shows that some groups of people have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. These include Black, Hispanic, and Native American communities.
Interestingly, virtually nobody is arguing that men should be preferred over women for getting the vaccine, even though men appear to be more vulnerable to severe consequences from infections.
From Medical Xpress, which writes up press releases:
DECEMBER 9, 2020
Researchers analyzed over three million confirmed coronavirus cases from 46 countries and 44 states in the US between January 1 and June 1, 2020.
They found that the risk of SARS-Cov-2 infection was the same for women and men, as “exactly half” of the confirmed cases were male patients.
But men are almost three times more likely than women to be hospitalized in an intensive care unit and are 39 percent more likely to die from the virus, the study said.
“These data may help doctors to recognize that sex is a risk factor for severe disease when managing patients,” co-author Kate Webb told AFP.
“Sex is an under reported variable in many studies and this is a reminder that it is an important factor to consider in research,” the Cape Town University researcher said.
The trend is global—aside from a few exceptions—and can mostly be put down to biological differences, researchers said.
“Sex differences in both the innate and adaptive immune system have been previously reported and may account for the female advantage in COVID-19,” the authors said.
Women naturally produce more type I interferon proteins that limit the abnormal immune response known as a cytokine storm, believed to play a role in provoking severe forms of COVID-19.
The “female” oestradiol hormone may also help women to fend off grave forms of the virus, as it boosts the response of T cells—which kill infected cells—and increases the production of antibodies, the study said.
“In contrast, the male sex hormone testosterone suppresses the immune system,” the authors noted.
Sex-based differences in co-morbidities associated with severe COVID-19 may put men at outsize risk, they wrote in the study, published in Nature Communications.
But data to account for the role of other medical conditions is lacking, they added.
In addition, the authors noted the similarity in the proportions of women and men with hypertension and diabetes globally, “the most common reported comorbidities in hospitalized COVID-19 patients.”
The findings may have implications for future vaccines, the authors said.
Webb noted previous vaccines to other infections have shown differences in response between women and men.
“It is still to be determined whether the same will be true for SARS-CoV-2 vaccines,” Webb said.
“But we hope that our paper highlights the need to include sex as a variable when considering vaccine research.”
Yeah, but nobody cares because men are the Designated Bad Guys, and all anybody uses to reason about public policy problems in 2020 is childish Good Guys vs. Bad Guys thinking.