UW Combined Fund Drive

May 21, 2021

The Covid-19 Pandemic and Health Equity

In the state of Washington, vaccines are now available to all people 12 years and older. Make an appointment at any of dozens of locations across the state or at a walk-up clinic. Remember, the vaccine protects everyone, especially you.

The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted difficult, but necessary, discussions about health equity. Why should we wear masks? Do we wear them to protect ourselves or others? (The answer there is both! Public health protects everyone.) As vaccines have rolled out, questions around who will take it arose. (The answer here is, again, everyone – everyone who can, should get the vaccine.)

Related: What’s OK (and What’s Not) After Your COVID-19 Vaccine

Now, recent changes to CDC guidance on masking have raised questions about health equity, particularly for people with limited access to vaccines or among communities with greater vaccine hesitancy.

According to the CDC, health equity is achieved when every person has the opportunity to attain their full health potential and no one is disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of their social position or other socially determined circumstances.

Based on CDC research, we now know that the vaccines are highly effective at protecting individuals from Covid-19, reducing the need for masks. So what does this health equity have to do with masking? Consider this – you are a parent of a children under 12. Though vaccines for kids will hopefully be an option soon, currently anyone under the age of 12 is ineligible for the Covid-19 vaccine. You, a vaccinated adult, may be fully protected, but your kids or the kids you may be around are still at risk. These kids do not have the opportunity to attain full health potential. Therefore, the social position of able adults who can take their masks off puts these kids, not to mention folks who are immunocompromised, experience medical discrimination, or unable to get the vaccine, at risk.

Read more: The race is on to deliver vaccine equity

As an institution working to be anti-racist, we at the UW must consider how our actions impact our entire community. Since 2017, UW Medicine has been guided by a Healthcare Equity Blueprint, a toolkit for faculty and staff to improve public health using a diversity, equity and inclusion lens.

On May 18, UW President Ana Mari Cauce reiterated the need for masks on campus, especially indoors, until at least June 30. In a Presidential town hall this month, Dr. Cauce and other university leadership expressed solidarity with the UW community in prioritizing the health and safety of all employees, students, and community members that interact with the University.

What can you do to help? While we at the UWCFD are not public health or medical experts, we are here to offer resources, suggestions on how to act in ambiguous situations, and ways to support organizations working toward health equity.


Current events are great conversation starters, but can leave you seeking more information. As always, we encourage you to do your research about health equity and how underserved communities bear the brunt of the consequences. Check out the following:

Act Accordingly

If you have not gotten your vaccine and are able to, please get your shot(s). Be considerate of the safety precautions of businesses you frequent, as many are still requiring masks to protect their employees and customers. If you aren’t sure about someone’s comfort level with being unmasked, either ask or wear a mask as a sign of respect.

Covid-19 Vaccine toolkit for social media (CDC): Use your platform to encourage others to get vaccinated!

Wearing a mask in public is a show of support to those who may be at higher risk and a sign that you care about our entire community.

UWCFD Organizations to Support

PATH (charity code 0316049) – PATH is a global team of innovators working to accelerate health equity so all people and communities can thrive. They advise and partner with public institutions, businesses, grassroots groups, and investors to solve the world’s most pressing health challenges. Part of the Global Impact nonprofit federation.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (charity code 0315947) – Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center conducts research of the highest standards to improve prevention, detection and treatment of cancer and related diseases resulting in reduced pain and suffering caused by these diseases— not just for some people, but for everyone. A person’s race or ethnic background, gender or zip code shouldn’t determine whether they live or die from cancer, COVID-19 or any other disease. Part of America’s Best Charities.

Global Impact (charity code 0316711) – Supports respected and effective international charities to address critical humanitarian issues throughout the world, such as disaster response, human trafficking, education, malaria, water and hunger.

Neighborcare Health (charity code 0320839) – Neighborcare Health provides quality medical, dental, mental health and school-based health services for uninsured families and individuals. They are the largest provider of primary medical, dental and behavioral health care services in the Seattle area serving low-income and uninsured families and individuals, seniors on fixed incomes, immigrants, and the homeless.

Safe Harbor Free Clinic (charity code 1481830) – Safe Harbor Free Clinic offers free medical care and dental services to any person in need.

Contributed by UWCFD intern Noam Soker