When it comes to the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, the question “Who should get it first?” is a messy one… but it might be even messier for people living with obesity.
In recent weeks, the topic of obesity is coming further into the spotlight thanks to not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but increased attention from popular media outlets.
Both Vogue and USA Today recently published thought-provoking news articles that are now trending on social media and prompting conversation. The articles have to do with the millions of Americans who now qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine based on their BMI, as people with obesity are at an increased risk for health complications and ICU admission. But while BMI-based vaccine eligibility can on one hand be seen as a positive, it’s also a difficult moment for many people living with obesity. As Emma Specter, author of the Vogue article puts it, “Most of us are so used to having doctors judge and shame us for our weight that the concept of entitling me to something beneficial feels entirely unfamiliar.”
Specter isn’t alone in this. Since the vaccine rollout, many Americans have criticized people with obesity who are on the priority list. Patty Nece, JD, Chairwoman of the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC), addressed her disappointment at this stigma in USA Today. “It displays a misunderstanding… weight isn’t always within your control. Like many diseases, there’s personal responsibility involved, but that’s not the end. The mantra of ‘eat less and move more’ – which I’ve heard my entire life – isn’t the answer,” said Ms. Nece.
The reality of weight bias is nothing new, but now popular media outlets are opening up an important dialogue that we need to have. They are challenging us to see how issues such as weight stigma and access to healthcare impact people living with obesity. And on top of that, we’ve added a global pandemic to the mix. At a time when people with obesity are more vulnerable to falling seriously ill from COVID-19, we shouldn’t make things worse by making others believe that they don’t deserve to get vaccinated. “We encourage people to remember that they are worth the care they deserve, and don’t take that kind of bias and deal with it,” said OAC VP of Marketing and Communications, James Zervios, in USA Today.
The Vogue and USA Today articles are two among many others who are putting the topic of obesity in the spotlight and generating dialogue. Obesity Care Week, a public awareness initiative championed by the OAC, and World Obesity Day 2021 both took place in early March and challenged the world to change how they think about obesity. This is a very important moment for all of us to be a part of the dialogue and share our experiences to help change harmful perceptions.
Tune-in to OAC’s Next Monthly Broadcast (March 24th) for More on this Topic!
Interested in hearing more on this discussion? If you’ve gotten the COVID-19 vaccine, what did your own experience look like? We’ll be covering all this and more on the OAC’s next monthly broadcast, taking place on March 24th at 3:00 pm EST. Click here to learn more.