The immunologist who leads the Covid-19 response in the United States has said that “the undeniable effects of racism” led to unacceptable health disparities that particularly hurt ethnic minority groups during the pandemic.
Dr Anthony Fauci said: “Covid-19 has shown a bright light on our own society’s failings.”
Speaking during a graduation ceremony in Atlanta, Dr Fauci said many members of minority groups worked in essential jobs where they could be exposed to coronavirus.
He also said they were more likely to become infected if exposed because of medical conditions such as hypertension, chronic lung disease, diabetes or obesity.
“Now, very few of these comorbidities have racial determinants,” Dr Fauci said.
“Almost all relate to the social determinants of health dating back to disadvantageous conditions that some people of colour find themselves in from birth regarding the availability of an adequate diet, access to healthcare and the undeniable effects of racism in our society.”
Dr Fauci said correcting societal wrongs would take a commitment over decades, and he urged the graduates to be part of the solution.
He said that once society returned to “some form of normality”, people should not forget that infectious disease had disproportionally hospitalised and killed people of colour.
“Societal divisiveness is counterproductive in a pandemic,” Dr Fauci said.
“We must not be at odds with each other since the virus is the enemy, not each other.”