Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Equitable?

Globe with map of U.S.

As of April 7, 2021, COVID-19 vaccines are available in North Carolina to everyone ages 16 and older. The vaccine is free everywhere in North Carolina; no photo ID or insurance is needed and U.S. citizenship is not required or checked, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

To aid in the efforts to defeat the pandemic, NC State is providing COVID-19 vaccinations to members of the Wolfpack community. And while NC State encourages all faculty, staff and students to get vaccinations once they are eligible to do so, it is good to note that not everyone in the world has the same access to the vaccine.

“More than half a billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide so far, and well over three-quarters of them have been used by the world’s richest countries,” says The New York Times. The World Health Organization, too, has acknowledged and even criticized the imbalance in the global distribution of vaccines.

The reasoning behind the imbalance of vaccine distribution goes back to the days when the vaccine was just starting to be developed. Preordering any vaccine at the time was a risk, as there was no guarantee it would make it to the market, so wealthier nations placed orders for multiple vaccines, making it difficult for middle- to low-income countries to purchase or preorder. 

Race, too, has been evident in vaccine distribution disparities.

Communities of color in the United States have received a smaller share of the vaccine. Various factors have contributed to this gap in distribution. The representation of people of color in vaccine-eligible groups is often lower than White populations in states across the country. Reliable internet access to make an appointment, work schedules, access to transportation and other issues are all factors that play a role in the racial disparity of COVID-19 vaccine distribution in the United States. 

Vaccine distribution, too, has been impacted by fear and distrust of the government.

The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Immigration and Customs Enforcement, issued a statement on February 1, 2021 that they “fully support equal access to the COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine distribution sites for undocumented immigrants.” The statement also said that “ICE does not and will not carry out enforcement operations at or near healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, accredited health clinics, and emergent or urgent care facilities, except in the most extraordinary of circumstances.” Still, there is hesitation among these groups to get vaccinated for fear of deportation or ineligibility.

Ultimately, global equitable access to vaccines will be essential in stopping the pandemic and mitigating public health impacts.

Join Us

Panelists Julie Casani and Dennis McLeod from NC State Student Health Services will discuss “COVID-19 Vaccination: Myth vs. Truth” on April 16, 2021 from noon to 1:15 p.m.


For more information about vaccines and what NC State’s COVID-19 response, visit the Protect the Pack website.

Jenna Nabors (she/her) is a graduating senior majoring in communication with minors in international studies, journalism and English and a Park Scholar. Share your thoughts about this article on Twitter at @NCStateOIED.