On Wednesday, Dave Boucher of the Detroit Free Press reported that Republicans in the Michigan state Senate are advancing an amendment that would bar the state from using a "social vulnerability index" to prioritize distribution of COVID-19 vaccine doses — meaning that it would be illegal to prioritize areas based on race, socioeconomic status, or a number of other factors.
State Sen. Jim Runestad justified the bill by complaining that under the state rules, a 20-year-old with "minority status and you don't speak English that well" would get a vaccine ahead of a 65-year-old. This is false, as 20-year-olds are not yet eligible for vaccines in Michigan.
The amendment ultimately passed the Appropriations Committee, although it still needs approval by the broader legislature.
The issue of how to prioritize vaccines has varied from state to state. In Texas, Dallas County was forced to end a program prioritizing vaccine delivery for high-risk communities of color after the state health officials threatened to cut off their doses altogether.
U.S. communities are heavily segregated by race, and Black and Latino workers account for 43 percent of workers deemed essential in the pandemic, which has raised the urgency among many officials to ensure their communities have adequate vaccine supply.