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Vt. health officials reject call to lift all BIPOC vaccination criteria

Published: Mar. 19, 2021 at 5:19 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont health officials Friday rejected calls by racial justice advocates to lift all vaccination criteria for Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

Right now, people of color must either live with someone 65 or older -- or someone 16 or older with a high-risk condition to get the shot. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says efforts to increase vaccinations by designating special clinics, aiding with registration, and language translation will continue, but they’re not extending age restrictions.

“As I’ve mentioned before, Vermonters who identify as BIPOC are overrepresented in COVID-19 cases,” Levine said. He says the state’s two vaccination clinics specifically for people of color provided 678 first doses of the COVID vaccine and 339 second doses. “We’ve been working with community partners in Burlington, Brattleboro, and other parts of Vermont to ensure access and to provide and prioritize the equitable vaccination of BIPOC Vermonters.”

The state set up these clinics in response to last month’s letter from the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance asking them to prioritize the BIPOC community. The group’s Mark Hughes says the state should eliminate the age criteria because of the community’s vulnerability to the virus. “What we’re asking the governor to do is to place, as a priority, the BIPOC community, for vaccinations. Period. Lift all of the other restrictions. Let’s go ahead and get the work done that needs to happen,” Hughes said.

But Levine said the work the state is doing to ensure BIPOC are vaccinated will continue in tandem with the state’s vaccine eligibility timeline, which allows all Vermonters 16+ to schedule a shot starting April 19th. “We know we have much yet to do. All of the efforts I’ve just described will continue in the light of the future vaccination timeline that you see here,” Levine said.

He says that includes setting up more clinics soon, including one on Saturday in Burlington to vaccinate 200 BIPOC Vermonters and another 100 in Brattleboro.

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Data shows Vt. minorities four times more likely to get COVID-19

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