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Kenan Institute 2024 Grand Challenge: Business Resilience
Market-Based Solutions to Vital Economic Issues
Jan 29, 2021

Prioritize High-Risk Demographics in Vaccine Rollout

People of color are overrepresented relative to their shares of the total population in coronavirus infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. The same is true for people living in over-crowded multigenerational households. Because people of color are more likely to live in multigenerational households than are Whites, the pandemic is having a double whammy effect in communities of color throughout the U.S.

Strikingly, health officials considered neither race nor living arrangements in the phase-one vaccine rollout. In what essentially constitutes a race-blind strategy, they prioritized instead age—adults 75 or older (subsequently expanded to those 65 and older)–and occupation–essential health care workers–in vaccine administration.

Critically, even this very limited phase-one rollout ignores racial disparities in vulnerability to the deadly virus. Due to a legacy of discrimination in all walks-oflife, Black older adults are three times more likely to live in poverty than White older adults are. They are also more likely to live in structurally deteriorating housing and dangerous neighborhoods that compromise their immune systems and adversely affect their health and wellbeing in other ways. Moreover, non-white essential workers are more likely than their White counterparts are to live in multigenerational households. All of these factors increase the risk of infections in these households.

Multigenerational households take on multiple configurations. Consider these three types, which illustrate the complexity of such living arrangements among people of color.

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