“There is no better, safer, or faster way to defeat this virus and revitalize our economy than to make vaccinations available to every Vermonter.

 “Since day one of our unprecedented effort to deliver safe and effective coronavirus vaccines, our strategy has been to preserve life. This is why, we - who are charged with the health and safety of Vermonters - have prioritized those at greatest risk of death and hospitalization.

 “Vermont’s data currently shows the Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) population is at increased risk of hospitalization from COVID-19. This is a population of our neighbors already facing health equity disadvantages as a result of historical inequities and injustices.

 “In addition to the greater risk of hospitalization among BIPOC community members, the pace of vaccination for these individuals is too far behind the white population. With a rate of 20.2% of the BIPOC population having received at least one dose of vaccine as compared with non-Hispanic Whites (33.4%), we need to do more to close this gap – both as a matter of equity and to help decrease the risk of hospitalizations.

 “These disparities are unacceptable to me. To address this, in coordination with the state’s health experts, I opened up vaccine registration to all members of the Vermont BIPOC community 16 years of age and older – as well as members of their household.

 “Unfortunately, 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.

 “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.

 “We understand that these are stressful, uncertain times and people have different ways of dealing with that stress.

 “That is no excuse, however, to resort to hateful attacks on fellow Vermonters – especially those comments including racist slurs. We have recently been reminded how words of hatred and bias can lead to terrible results – from the death of George Floyd to the tragic attacks on members of the Asian-American community, to the shocking attack on our nation’s capital.

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

 “And to my fellow Vermonters who find themselves the target of these comments and actions of prejudice, please know that we stand with you. Do not be intimidated by the hate speech. Do not allow these comments of racism to keep you from getting vaccinated or from anything you deserve as members of the Vermont community.”

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