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UT Austin professor joins national committee for COVID-19 vaccine allocation study

UT Austin's Dr. Jewel Mullen is one of 18 members of the Committee on Equitable Allocation of Vaccine for the Novel Coronavirus.

AUSTIN, Texas — A University of Texas at Austin professor is one of the experts helping decide who should get a COVID-19 vaccine first. Dr. Jewel Mullen and 17 others served on a national committee recommending a four-phase approach to fairly distribute the vaccine.

"It was a privilege to be a member of that committee. Sometimes people ask me how I got involved in health equity leadership and I tell them that it started with my fundamental interest in ethics, social justice and the belief in human rights for all people. And everyone's needing to be treated equally and well," Dr. Mullen said. 

RELATED: UT Austin researchers play key role in COVID-19 vaccine

Dr. Mullen said she has participated in studies before, but nothing that was nationally focused on equity. Since she's a doctor, she's well-versed on COVID-19. 

"I understand some very fundamental things about the virus and its transmission. I'm also a public health trained person. Some people say expert for public health expertise in epidemiology, which means I understand how the disease can be transmitted and how it can manifest in different populations and those risks," she said. 

WATCH: UT researchers helping develop COVID-19 vaccine

The committee's recommendations go to the CDC and the National Institutes of Health. The group suggested to start by giving the vaccine to first responders and high-risk health care workers followed by people with underlying conditions. 

Dr. Mullen is the associate dean for health equity at Dell Medical School, and she said she's happy to help make informed decisions. 

RELATED: Gov. Abbott, DSHS announce distribution plan for COVID-19 vaccine in Texas

"No one is more important than another person and to really demonstrate that we need to make sure that the way in which we care for people in communities goes an extra mile for those who need more assistance to be as well as everybody else in the population. That's what equity is," Dr. Mullen said. 

The committee is also recommending the vaccine be provided with no out-of-pocket costs. 

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