NACDD Urges Prioritization of Populations with High-Risk Chronic Diseases, Especially Among Communities of Color, for COVID-19 Vaccination

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Paige Rohe, 404-924-8295

ATLANTA (Dec. 15, 2020) – The National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD) has issued a policy statement urging federal authorities and state infectious disease officials to prioritize COVID-19 vaccination for populations with high-risk chronic diseases, especially those who are Black, Native American, and Latinx.

As the only organization representing all State and Territorial Chronic Disease Directors and their staff, NACDD works to reduce the impact of chronic diseases on the population and advocates for prevention policies and programs.

NACDD supports recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) that prioritize healthcare workers and safeguard these critical and selfless professionals against COVID-19. Keeping healthcare workers safe and healthy also ensures that critical prevention work, including the identification and management of chronic disease, continues during the pandemic.

NACDD also supports efforts to prioritize people with high-risk medical conditions. People with advanced cardiovascular disease, cancer, and unmanaged diabetes are at a significantly higher risk for severe

COVID-19-associated disease as well as at a higher risk of dying from COVID-19.

NACDD believes that these and other chronic conditions should qualify people for inclusion in Phase 1c of ACIP’s preliminary categories.

Alternatively, the Association recommends a Phase 1d that includes people with other pre-existing chronic diseases that CDC has identified may be associated with a higher risk for severe COVID-19 disease and death.

NACDD also commends the ACIP for its commitment to promoting justice and health equity as it moves forward with their recommendations. This focus will allow vaccine distribution to address populations who have been disproportionately affected by the virus, specifically Black people, Native Americans, and people who are Latinx.

People who are Black, Native American, and Latinx already face higher rates of severe chronic disease and preventable mortality. Additionally, many of these communities have limited access to and poorer healthcare as well as lower socioeconomic status, making their ability to receive treatment for severe COVID-19 disease less likely.

To help address these double disparities and the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 mortality on these communities, NACDD recommends that the Committee also prioritize reaching Black people, Native Americans, and Latinxs with severe chronic disease in the distribution process. 

Finally, states ultimately will be responsible for making the decisions about vaccine allocation and coordinating distribution efforts, however, Congress has not allocated money to the states for this effort.

Without adequate funding, states will face significant distribution challenges, especially reaching vulnerable populations. This will seriously jeopardize states’ ability to achieve the justice and health equity goals outlined by ACIP.

“Chronic Disease Units are uniquely expert in their understanding of the chronic disease burden in their communities, and already, many of them are making important contributions to the COVID-19 response,” said John W. Robitscher, NACDD CEO. “We encourage Congress to consider adequate funding for state Chronic Disease Units so they can continue to be effective in supporting the vaccine and other humanitarian relief programming during the COVID-19 pandemic.”