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Vermont governor condemns 'racist' response to state prioritizing vaccinating minority communities

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) this week condemned the “racist” response he received to the state prioritizing COVID-19 vaccinations for minority communities.

Scott issued a statement on Monday defending the state’s decision to prioritize Black, Indigenous and other people of color for vaccines. Vermont is currently limiting widespread vaccine eligibility to people 40 and older, but on Thursday opened up eligibility to people of color age 16 years and older.

The governor first announced the eligibility decision last Tuesday as an effort to decrease the gap in vaccination rates among people of color and white populations. He said that 20.2 percent of those in minority communities had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, compared to 33.4 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

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However, Scott said on Monday that his office and the Vermont Department of Health have been subject to "hateful attacks" over the decision.

“The legacy of racism in America, and in Vermont, still drives a lot of anger and fear. Recently, my office, the Health Department and those hardworking individuals getting us vaccinated, have been subjected to vitriolic and inappropriate comments in social media and other forums regarding this decision,” he said.

“This too is unacceptable. And it is evidence that many Americans, and many Vermonters, still have a lot to learn about the impacts of racism in our country and how it has influenced public policy over the years,” he continued.

Scott added that there was no excuse to attack fellow residents, especially with “comments including racist slurs.” He noted that hateful words and bias can end tragically.

“Words matter. I encourage everyone to consider the meaning of their words from another person’s point of view, as well as the consequences of how our own words can impact the wellbeing of others,” Scott said.

“In a time when technology is one of the only ways many can maintain connection, I implore all of us to respect one another," he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has long recognized that communities of color are at greater risk of experiencing severe outcomes due to COVID-19 compared to white, non-Hispanic populations.

However, among those that have received at least one vaccine dose, 65.7 percent are white, according to CDC data, far outpacing communities of color.