New initiative in Burlington takes aim at disparities in health care for Black, Indigenous and people of color

Local News

Three quarters of eligible people in Chittenden County have now gotten one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but only 58% of Black, Indigenous and people of color have gotten their shot.

On Wednesday, Burlington officials announced the launch of a new organization, Vermont Health Equity Initiative, to decrease racial disparities in vaccine administration and other social, economic and health areas.

Belan Antensaye, of the Vermont Professionals of Color Network, said one goal of the initiative is to “be the least clinical clinic, the least medical medical experience.

“So they can disassociate from other past experiences they’ve had and other harms done to the BIPOC community,” Antensaye said. “That includes greeters that look like you.”

Vermont Health Equity offers its own, basic vaccine sign-up form as well as community conversations and other resources. Over the past eight weeks, 1,200 BIPOC Vermonters have been fully vaccinated at designated clinics. The initiative will also help with language barriers and transportation.

Its work won’t end when the pandemic does. Organizers say racial disparities extend to housing and many other economic factors.

“It’s crystal clear this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Luis Calderin. “We have a lot of work to do and it’s going to take a lot of us to make real change.”

Pop up vaccine sites are also coming soon to North Beach and Church Street Marketplace. In addition to the BIPOC community, Queen City leaders say getting the 18-29 age group vaccinated is another priority.

Mayor Miro Weinberger said the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic shows its committment to racial equity in health care.

“Burlington is totally committed to eliminating race based disparities and eliminating systemic racism in Chittenden County,” he said.

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