It is, all of us acknowledge, very important to ensure that members of ethnic minorities are not excluded from access to the vaccine on the basis of their race. But to prioritize a 23-year-old Latino Uber driver who is very likely to weather infection with Covid over an 80-year-old white retiree who is likely to die from it because the former is part of a group that includes marginally more brown people and the latter is part of a group that includes marginally more white people is to inscribe racial discrimination at the heart of American public policy in an astonishing manner.
It gets even more shocking. The difference in the percentage of white people across age groups is comparatively small. The difference in the percentage of infected people who succumb to Covid across all age groups is massive. Giving the vaccine to African-American essential workers before elderly African-Americans would likely raise the overall death toll of African-Americans even if a somewhat greater number of African-Americans were to receive the vaccine as a result.
In other words, the CDC was effectively about to recommend that a greater number of African-Americans die so that the share of African-Americans who receive the vaccine is slightly higher. In blatant violation of the “leveling down objection,” prioritizing essential workers in the name of equality would likely kill more people in all relevant demographic groups.