Vermonters who are 65 and older or 16 and older with a high risk condition are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
But for the Black, Indigenous and other people of color, there is one more qualifying factor, said Deputy Health Commissioner Tracy Dolan. “You can also bring all of your household members even if they don’t meet eligibility, and so your whole household can get vaccinated,” she said.
Dolan said people of color are at a higher risk for infection. She says the household approach was suggested by the BIPOC communities in Vermont.
“Partly because we know that if you are a person of color in Vermont you’re more likely to live in a multigenerational household,” Dolan said. “We know that some outbreaks have been associated with multigenerational households.”
Dolan said infection rates are three times higher in the BIPOC community than among whites.
“To break that down a little bit among those who are 65 and older, we have vaccinated 57% of the BIPOC community versus 65% among the white community,” Dolan said.
The health department is working with the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance to distribute vaccines. Racial justice activist Mark Hughes said so many people called to sign up for Saturdays clinic, they had to turn them away.
“There was over 1000 people who called in across the state in this clinic that we set up here and many of them we had to turn back, as many as 80% we had to turn back,” Hughes said.
Hughes said there are many reasons why the BIPOC community is at high risk.
“More times than not black and brown folks are going to be in the community because of now what we call essential worker responsibilities that they have as well, in addition to all of this,” Hughes said.
He believes there is not enough information being shared to the BIPOC community about the vaccine, and now they will be holding information sessions to help educate.
“Another deficiency in our community has existed and that is the absence of information, we know there is vaccine hesitancy across our communities,” Hughes said.