Republican governor prioritizes minority communities for Covid-19 vaccinations… in Vermont

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Vermont Governor Phil Scott, a Republican, announced the decision to open up Covid-19 vaccination availability to everyone over the age of 16, except for white people. There is a prioritization of anyone who identifies as black, indigenous, or a person of color in Vermont.

Governor Scott spread the word via a tweet. It seems like an odd decision, especially given the highly sensitive times in which we live. If only one member of a household is a person of one the specified racial preferences, then the whole household (over the age of 16) can come and get vaccinated.

Again, not to put too fine of a point on it but this is Vermont we’re talking about. This is a very white state. I checked on the state’s population demographics for more clarity. The most recent breakdown I came across during a quick search is from July 2019. Estimates are made using 2010 census statistics. The general population of Vermont is estimated, as of July 2019, to be 623,989. It is a small state. In the Race and Hispanic Origin category, 94.2% of Vermont residents identify as white. Black or African-American is 1.4% of the population, American Indian and Alaskan Native is 0.4%, Asian is 1.9%, and Hispanic and Latino is 2.0%. So, you can see we aren’t talking about a large number of the population that may be seen as underserved or lacking access to vaccinations. It also assumes that none of the white Vermonters are in either category – underserved or lacking access.

This move reeks of political correctness. A frequent narrative during the coronavirus pandemic is that underserved minority communities are being prioritized to make sure they have access to vaccines when they become available. That’s reasonable – go to communities with residents who are home-bound or without transportation to vaccine facilities. Encourage communities of color who are traditionally hesitant to be vaccinated to get vaccinated. These actions, though, require health care professionals to go into the communities and take the vaccines to them. It requires additional personnel and getting the message out. To simply put out a call on Twitter for minorities to come to get a jab in the arm instead of everyone over the age of 16 provides unnecessary provocation. This smacks of racial preference.

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Imagine if a call was put out for only white people to respond? The point is, that wouldn’t happen. Choosing one race over another to provide medical attention runs afoul of the constitution and civil rights. Governor Scott is a Republican but a very moderate to liberal Republican. He is likely playing to the woke crowd in Vermont.

The state’s website advertises “BIPOC household focused clinics” in Northern and Southern Vermont. For the Burlington area, the state offers a vaccination form that specifies eligibility is for BIPOC individuals and members of their household. The first question asks: “Do you identify as Black, Indigenous, or Person of Color (BIPOC)? This includes anyone who is non-white.”

Other eligibility categories include people 50 years and older, people 16 years or older with high-risk health conditions, English language learners and people in immigrant/refugee communities, health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities, people who work in the public safety system and school staff and child care workers. The immigrant/refugee category similarly offers “community-specific clinics.”

The categories link to a site describing the state’s strategy of “working toward equity.”

“We still have much more to do to address the significant disparities in the rates of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death among Vermonters who are Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC),” the website reads. “Right now we are working with funded community partners to understand the barriers that might limit vaccine access for BIPOC Vermonters, as these require unique public health solutions.”

The site adds that “[i]t makes good public health sense to allow families and households facing language and access barriers to get information and services at the same time, rather than duplicate these services later on.”

Perhaps there are numbers that must be met in the agreements with “funded community partners”, that isn’t clear. There must be a reason for such a ham-handed announcement. Why would the governor want to piss off up to 94% of the state’s population?

Look, I think everyone who wants a vaccination should have access to it. I’m scheduled for my second dose of the Pfizer vaccination next week. This is just weird, though. Governor Scott has created a kerfuffle where one was not needed. He’s made more common sense decisions to hot button issues before so this seems unnecessary. To give him the benefit of the doubt, maybe his advisers gave him some bad advice in handling vaccine distribution.

Vaccinations don’t need to be separated by race or ethnic category. It’s unnecessarily divisive and that’s something we need less of these days, not more.

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