Reading this article got me thinking about whether our vaccination programme in the UK is fair or not.
A couple of weeks ago my mother, who is 85 years old and in a care home in Oxford, received her second Pfizer vaccination. Obviously, I was delighted. At 85 years old and in a care home she is certainly near the top of the at risk table and should definitely be vaccinated as early as possible. That she is 85 and in a care home is probably dependent on a few factors. My mother is a white woman who is relatively affluent, and so has a life-expectancy that is likely to reach well into the 80s or even 90s. If we look at a man from a BAME ethnicity living in a deprived environment, his life expectancy will be far less than my mother's and he is probably at equal risk of dying from COVID-19 even at a much earlier age.
Vaccinating key-workers makes a lot of sense to me. They are at risk of contracting the virus and they are essential to our coping with, and fighting COVID-19. As there is a relatively high proportion of ethnic minorities working in healthcare and other key worker roles, this may redress the balance somewhat. But the numbers are not large enough to redress how discriminatory age is.
The mean age of death of a homeless person in the UK is 44. The homeless are not likely to receive a vaccine until much later in the year. In Oxford we see a difference of up to 15 years in life expectancy between the most deprived and least deprived wards, separated by only a couple of miles. The deprived areas have higher proportion of BAME residents. It is easy to come to the conclusion that using age to prioritise vaccination is discriminatory and is favouring the white affluent population, as fewer in deprived areas, and fewer ethnic minorities, will be amongst the eldest population of Oxfordshire (and the UK).
So, what should we do? Speed of delivery of the vaccination is of paramount importance, so I don't believe we should get wrapped up in too much bureaucracy that could slow the delivery. But prioritising those who live in deprived areas, and those from a minority ethnic background, at a younger age cannot be beyond the wit of man.
The Ethics of Prioritizing COVID-19 Vaccination Jan 19, 2021 PETER SINGER In the United States and some other countries, members of disadvantaged racial and ethnic minorities have a lower-than-average life expectancy, and therefore are under-represented among those most likely to die from COVID-19. How should policymakers weigh this and other factors specific to population sub-groups