Washington, D.C. —Today, U.S. Representatives Katherine Clark (MA-05), Nanette Diaz Barrágan (CA-44), and 38 other Members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky urging the agency to add moderate-to-severe asthma in its list of underlying medical conditions that increase the risk for severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19). The Members point out that asthma disproportionately impacts communities of color and failure to prioritize this form of lung disease contributes to inequitable vaccine distribution. 

“We have grown increasingly concerned by the inequitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and believe the failure to list asthma, a lung disease that disproportionately impacts communities of color, is a contributing factor in that unequal distribution,” wrote the lawmakers. “The science is clear, individuals with preexisting lung conditions are more susceptible to severe COVID disease. The omission of asthma from the CDC’s list of underlying conditions means that asthma patients who live in states that closely adhere to CDC guidelines do not have priority access to vaccines."

A nationwide study conducted by Harvard’s public health researchers found that fine particulate matter, which causes respiratory illnesses like asthma, increases the risk of dying from COVID-19. As with many medical conditions, the burden of asthma is disproportionately experienced in communities of color that already face greater COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death rates compared to their white counterparts. According to the American Lung Association, nearly 11% of all Black individuals were estimated to have asthma compared to 7.7% of white individuals in 2018. Multiple states like Delaware, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and New York have already acknowledged moderate-to-severe asthma as a significant risk and prioritized asthma patients for vaccination access.

The full letter is available here.