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Racial gap in vaccinations remains at 13% despite BIPOC-focused clinics

Published: Apr. 2, 2021 at 11:31 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Two weeks after the state of Vermont started offering vaccination clinics for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), the racial disparity in COVID vaccination rates persists.

Data shows BIPOC have higher infection and hospitalization rates in Vermont and across the country, which is why the state decided to prioritize them in the vaccine rollout.

The Vermont Health Department says there’s still a 13% gap between vaccinated white Vermonters versus BIPOC Vermonters.

Deputy Health Commissioner Tracy Dolan says officials hope to make more progress after the decision this week to allow BIPOC Vermonters 16 and older to begin registering for the vaccine.

“That gap should start to close,” Dolan said.

As of Friday, 7,953 eligible BIPOC in the state have gotten their first shot of the vaccine. That’s 22% of the BIPOC population 16 and older. It’s also 13% lower than the 35% of vaccinated white Vermonters.

Dolan says the department expects more BIPOC will get vaccinated in the coming weeks as they make more age groups eligible for the shot. She says that’s because there are more young BIPOC in the state than older.

“For a while, the way we were doing this was to prevent death and hospitalization, and we were successful, but the approach is inequitable in that BIPOC communities are not as well represented in those age groups,” she said.

As the state continues its push to vaccinate the BIPOC community, it’s facing criticism and threats of lawsuits.

On Friday, Fox News slammed the initiative as an example of “critical race theory” and called it a “flagrant violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Constitutional law analyst and professor Jared Carter says he believes the state of Vermont is “well within their constitutional parameters” and meets the U.S. Supreme Court’s “strict scrutiny” requirements.

Strict scrutiny demands the law be “narrowly tailored to further a compelling governmental interest.”

Carter argues Vermont’s compelling interest in this case is stopping the spread of the coronavirus.

“So if we’re going to get to herd immunity, if we’re going to deal with the disproportionate impacts on certain populations, like the BIPOC community, the only way for Vermont is so that is by prioritizing BIPOC community members,” Carter said.

There are several BIPOC vaccination clinics across the state this weekend. Click here for more information.

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