CDC announces ethical guidelines for COVID-19 vaccine — here’s how they might affect El Paso


AstraZeneca says late-stage trials of its COVID-19 vaccine were “highly effective’’ in preventing disease. A vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford prevented 70% of people from developing the coronavirus in late-stage trials, the team reported Monday Nov. 23, 2020. (Oxford University Pool via AP, File)

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is at work to distribute initial supplies of the COVID-19 vaccine across the country while also upholding ethical principles for allocation. 

El Paso is slated to be one of the first cities to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine due to the severity of daily cases and deaths as city, county and state leaders continue to butt heads.

While the Borderland continues to struggle, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has outlined four principles to guide COVID-19 vaccine implementation:

  1. Maximize benefits and minimize harm
  2. Promote justice
  3. Mitigate health inequities
  4. Promote transparency 

The ACIP reports that the COVID-19 vaccine must maximize benefits to both individuals and the general population in order to reduce the rate of infection. Reduction in COVID-19 cases, says the CDC, will reduce the burden of the city’s overwhelmed health care system and its workers.

The ACIP is making considerations that include determining groups at the greatest risk for contracting COVID-19, what groups are essential to COVID-19 responses, what groups are essential to maintaining critical functions of society and what characteristics inform the magnitude of vaccine benefit based on the availability of the vaccine.

El Paso meets criteria of a region that stands to gain a reprieve from the overwhelming spread of cases and plans to distribute the vaccine to health care workers and high-risk persons once it’s available. El Paso Public Health Director Angela Mora said 139 local providers are enrolled to distribute the vaccine. 

The CDC’s principle for promoting justice is based on a responsibility to protect and propel equal opportunity for people to live their best (and most well) lives.  The ACIP says justice rests on the belief in the fundamental value and dignity of all persons.

One of the guiding principles to promote justice is identifying whether groups that are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 or face health inequities that stem from social determinants of health such as income and access to health care. 

El Paso meets that criteria, and then some.

More than 20 percent of El Pasoans live in poverty and 31 percent of children in El Paso live in poverty.

One in four El Pasoans is in poor or fair health, while 31 percent of El Paso county residents are uninsured. 

The CDC’s effort to promote justice is buttressed by a commitment to remove barriers to vaccination that disproportionately affect groups that have been economically or socially marginalized, which data suggests a large percentage of Hispanic El Pasoans fits. 

“Disparities in the severity of COVID-19 and COVID-19–related death,as well as inequities in social determinants of health that are linked to COVID-19 risk, such as income or health care access and utilization, are well documented among certain racial and ethnic minority groups,” reports the CDC’s most recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

To mitigate health inequities for communities like El Paso, the CDC aims to allocate vaccines to simultaneously reduce existing disparities, while also preventing new disparities from being created. 

“Efforts should be made to identify and remove obstacles to receiving COVID-19 vaccine, including limited access to health care or residence in rural, hard-to-reach areas,” reports the ACIP.

The CDC’s decision-making process to distribute the COVID-19 is predicated on promoting transparency in an effort to build and maintain public trust. The ACIP is recommending tracking administration of the COVID-19 vaccine and later share data as new information becomes available.

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