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US adults’ preferences for race-based and place-based prioritisation for COVID-19 vaccines
  1. Harald Schmidt1,
  2. Sonia Jawaid Shaikh2,
  3. Emily Sadecki3,
  4. Sarah Gollust4
  1. 1 Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  2. 2 Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  3. 3 Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  4. 4 Division of Health Policy and Management, University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Harald Schmidt, Medical Ethics and Health Policy, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA; schmidth{at}


Implementing equity principles in resource allocation is challenging. In one approach, some US states implemented race-based prioritisation of COVID-19 vaccines in response to vast racial inequities in COVID-19 outcomes, while others used place-based allocation. In a nationally representative survey of n=2067 US residents, fielded in mid-April 2021 (before the entire US population became eligible for vaccines), we explored the public acceptability of race-based prioritisation compared with place-based prioritisation, by offering vaccines to harder hit zip codes before residents of other zip codes. We found that in general, a majority of respondents supported the place-based approach, and a substantial proportion supported the race-based plan. Support was higher among Democrats compared with Republicans. All US residents became eligible for vaccines on 19 April 2021 but as of this writing, equitable uptake of vaccines remains urgent not only for first doses for adults but also for boosters and for children. Our findings also provide a benchmark for future pandemic planning that racial and social justice in vaccine allocation are salient considerations for the public. The findings may furthermore be of interest to policy makers designing vaccine allocation frameworks in countries with comparable health disparities across social, ethnic and racial groups, and more broadly, for those exploring ways of promoting equity in resource allocation outside of a pandemic setting.

  • ethics
  • public policy
  • policy
  • right to health

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  • HS and SJS are joint first authors.

  • Contributors HS and SJS had the idea for the study and jointly designed the initial instrument, revised substantially after further input from SG. SJS led all data analyses, with assistance from ES and guidance from SG. HS wrote the first draft of the manuscript and led all subsequent revisions; all authors critically reviewed and revised the manuscript.

  • Funding This study was funded by Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, University of Pennsylvania (Policy Accelerator Program (no award number)).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.