Minnesota health coalition wants minority groups to get vaccinated first

The group claims that the state's emphasis on "efficiency and speed" has “contributed to colorblind vaccination strategies.”

Stock photo/Unsplash

A coalition of Minnesota doctors wants the governor to prioritize minority groups for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Minnesota Doctors for Health Equity sent a letter Monday to Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan asking for “ethical, evidence-based, and equitable action” surrounding the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution, particularly regarding Phase 1b of the vaccine rollout.

Close to 350 health organizations, professionals, and community partners signed the group’s statement to show their support for “COVID vaccine equity.”

“Efficiency and speed cannot stand as excuses to push equity aside,” the letter states, claiming Minnesota has put too much emphasis on rolling out the vaccine as fast as possible, which has “contributed to colorblind vaccination strategies.”

The group calls for race and ethnicity data on vaccine recipients to be made public immediately.

“To progress forward, equity must be emphasized. Deployment infrastructure must prioritize vaccination of marginalized populations, emphasize data transparency with regard to sociodemographic characteristics of vaccine recipients, and promote community-engaged outreach efforts,” the letter continues. 

Phase 1a of the vaccine rollout exacerbated racial inequities, according to the group of doctors, whose letter requests that Phase 1b include vaccines for the homeless, the incarcerated, individuals working in meat-packing plants and other jobs that require being in close quarters, and those committed to psychiatric hospitals.

These groups “hail from historically marginalized communities,” the letter claims, and have a higher probability of contracting and spreading the virus.

The coalition also believes that prioritizing people based solely on their age increases inequality and “misrepresents the disproportionate toll of COVID-19 among Black, Native American, Asian, and Hispanic populations.”

Meanwhile, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law recently distributed letters to 29 states, including Minnesota, requesting the publication of race and ethnicity data for vaccine recipients in order to reduce the “impact of COVID-19 on communities of color.”

“As Black and other historically marginalized communities continue to get sicker and die at greater rates than their white counterparts, equitable access to the vaccine — and the data which demonstrates that — is truly a matter of life and death,” the Lawyers’ Committee says in its letter.

According to its website, the goal of Minnesota Doctors for Health Equity is to “educate health professionals to work toward health equity,” which is possible when the causes of poor health are addressed. These causes include “poverty, racism, gender inequity, climate change, and limited access to health care.”

Minnesota Doctors for Health Equity’s letter is addressed to Walz, Flanagan, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, and Department of Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead.

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Rose Williams

Rose Williams is an assistant editor for Alpha News.