COVID-19 and Health Equity—A New Kind of “Herd Immunity”

  • iconMental and physical health
  • iconEconomic impact
  • iconInfection and infection control

David R. Williams


David R. Williams recently co-authored “COVID-19 and Health Equity—A New Kind of “Herd Immunity” in the Journal of the American Medical Association. He writes that “COVID-19 is a magnifying glass that has highlighted the larger pandemic of racial/ethnic disparities in health,” and goes on to note, “The striking racial/ethnic disparities reported for COVID-19 infection, testing, and disease burden are a clear reminder that failure to protect the most vulnerable members of society not only harms them but also increases the risk of spread of the virus, with devastating health and economic consequences for all.”

Williams suggests the need for long-term investments to create a new kind of “herd immunity” to protect the health of all members of society by creating healthy homes and communities and mitigating the effects of negative social determinants. To build public support to implement these initiatives three strategies are needed: 1) raise awareness of the existence of racial/ethnic inequalities in health; 2) promote understanding of the determinants of the racial/ethnic inequalities; and 3) develop systematic efforts to create broad support for political action and address the racial empathy gap.

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