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ACP Urges Ethical Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccines, Says Medical Need Should Govern Prioritization

Statement attributable to:
Jacqueline W. Fincher, MD, MACP
President, American College of Physicians

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 —The American College of Physicians (ACP) is concerned about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and emphasizes that reaching the appropriate populations with COVID-19 vaccines has taken on even greater significance with recent daily death rates of over 4,000 individuals in the U.S. and the arrival of a highly infectious variant of the virus. We are troubled about reports that COVID-19 vaccines are being administered preferentially or ahead of patients and others in need. ACP is also concerned about reports indicating that some states may delay vaccinating incarcerated persons for COVID-19, despite their congregate living circumstances, and about denial of vaccines based on immigration status.

Medical indication should govern health care prioritization decisions. In the allocation of preventive services such as vaccines, maximizing benefit means prioritizing those most likely to become severely sick or die. Vaccine allocation and administration must be ethical and patient-centered. ACP previously issued a framework and recommendations for the ethical, equitable and phased allocation of vaccines in the U.S. population to slow down COVID-19 that are largely in agreement with the recommendations of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

As states are moving on to expanded phases of vaccination, ACP strongly believes that vaccine implementation must be equitable and non-discriminatory, since the elderly and members of minority racial and ethnic groups are disproportionately represented among COVID-19–associated deaths, according to the CDC and others. Those entrusted to distribute vaccines should not use allocations for their own (non-frontline health care) employees and individuals who “jump the line” ahead of those in greater need, including at independent physician practices and smaller hospitals.

In addition, strategies to reduce transmission, including maintaining physical distance, appropriate mask use, self-isolation, quarantine, frequent hand hygiene and other measures will remain necessary until vaccines have been widely administered.

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About the American College of Physicians

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 163,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Contact: Jacquelyn Blaser, (202) 261-4572, jblaser@acponline.org