A vaccine provider, encouraged by Washington state’s Department of Health, is delaying white people from signing up to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the name of racial equity.
According to reports from Jason Rantz, The African American Reach and Teach Health Ministry (AARTH) is automatically deferring white people who try to register for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment to a standby list based on race. Only when the waitlist of black, indigenous, and other people of color receive their vaccine first, will white people will be called about scheduling a time to receive their shot.
The state does not appear to have a problem with AARTH’s system because they claim that black people are faced with enough “systemic inequities” in health care to justify prioritizing them.
“Prioritization is designed to address current inequities and barriers to accessing vaccine, and get the people who are at highest risk vaccinated first while federal vaccine supply remains limited,” a spokesperson for the state’s Department of Health told Rantz.
Putting black communities before others, another spokesperson told Rantz, is justified because minorities are more vulnerable to racism which “is a stressor that is bad for health and life expectancy.”
AARTH consultant Twanda Hill also told Rantz that she did not consider this policy to be exclusionary or problematic because the vaccine is still technically being offered to white people. Instead, she blamed the health care system and the state for not having enough vaccines to create more appointments.
“The health care system in general, if they could service brown people and people of color, this wouldn’t be an issue,” Hill said.
While certain health care centers such as the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle have policies banning racial discrimination in medical care, the center still plans to host AARTH’s vaccine clinic in May. The center told Rantz that it supports “diversity, equity and inclusion” in health care and “recognize(s) the importance of prioritizing communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic.”
This news comes after a Boston hospital released a plan in early April calling for an “Antiracist Agenda For Medicine” that gives “preferential care based on race” in the name of racial equity. The researchers who penned the article also encouraged healthcare providers to partake in “implicit bias training” meant to correct the practices “inevitably tainted by the pervasiveness of structural racism.”