Vaccine Priority in Vermont for People of Color, Indigenous, English Language Learners, Refugees

Judicial Watch is investigating yet another state’s potentially illegal race-based COVID-19 vaccination policy, this time prioritizing those who identify as black, indigenous, people of color, English language learners and members of an immigrant/refugee community. This month the Vermont Department of Health announced it was prioritizing the minority communities listed above to receive the shots as many residents wait patiently for an appointment. The state’s Republican governor, Phil Scott, defends the move asserting in a statement that that the “Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) population is at increased risk of hospitalization from COVID-19.”

The governor explains that the BIPOC population is already facing health equity disadvantages resulting from “historical inequities and injustices.” Besides being at greater risk of hospitalization the BIPOC community’s vaccination rate is too far behind the white population, according to Scott, who reveals that only 20.2% of BIPOC have received at least one dose of the vaccine compared to 33.4% of non-Hispanic whites. “These disparities are unacceptable to me,” the governor says, adding that “unfortunately, the legacy of racism in America, and in Vermont, still drives a lot of anger and fear.” He is referring to “vitriolic and inappropriate comments on social media and other forums” criticizing his decision to prioritize minorities while many residents still wait for their inoculation.

This week Judicial Watch filed a Vermont Public Records Act request to uncover information involving the race-based program. Addressed to the governor’s office and the Vermont Department of Health, the request asks for records regarding how a person’s status as a member of one or more of the previously mentioned communities will be assessed and verified. Judicial Watch also wants records identifying reasons for including these communities in vaccine eligibility and excluding other races, ethnicities, and groups as well as communications between officials or employees concerning vaccine eligibility for the minority groups. Lastly, the public record request asks for any analyses of whether making vaccine eligibility open to black, indigenous, people of color, English language learners, and people in immigrant/refugee communities is consistent with state and federal law, including the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Earlier in the week Judicial Watch launched a similar investigation in Maryland after the state’s two biggest counties—both illegal immigrant sanctuaries—launched a “special clinic” to inoculate 600 Latinos a week. The exclusive operation is stationed at the Adventist HealthCare facility in Takoma Park, which is situated in Montgomery County, Maryland’s most populous. The shots are also offered to Latinos who live in nearby Prince George’s County. Unlike Vermont, Maryland discloses that recipients are “preselected” by an area open borders group, Casa de Maryland, and a Latino Health Initiative launched by Montgomery County two decades ago. In a statement announcing the venture public officials claim that it will help overcome inequities in the vaccine rollout as well as general health disparities that plague poor minority communities. Judicial Watch has launched Maryland Public Information Act requests for both counties seeking, among other things, the eligibility criteria for individuals who want vaccinations in the special clinic and records identifying the reasons for limiting it to Latinos and excluding other races, ethnicities, or groups. The inquiry also asks both counties for any analyses of whether limiting the vaccination program to Latinos is consistent with state and federal law, including but not limited to the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The government-funded COVID-19 vaccine is intended for all the nation’s residents, not special groups secretly chosen by politicians with agendas. The life-saving shots were created as part of a Trump administration initiative called Operation Warp Speed to accelerate the development, production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and deliver 300 million doses. The U.S. reportedly invested $18 billion on the project which involves several key government agencies—such as the Department of Defense (DOD), Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—and private companies.

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