Washington State is prioritizing the “Black, Indigenous & People of Color” and denies vaccines to white people in a race-exclusionary system they claim creates equity and removes barriers. It does neither.
At the African American Reach and Teach Health Ministry (AARTH) website, white people are currently not eligible to book a vaccination appointment. They are instead directed to join a waiting list and advised they will be notified when there is a “vaccine surplus available” at a clinic.
Vaccine appointment slots at the four sites available via the AARTH website are currently targeted for “Black, Indigenous & People of Color.”
The AARTH website states: “The COVID-19 vaccine is available to all people 16 years and older who live or work in Washington state. If you do not meet our targeted audience, we encourage you to join our STANDBY List.”
After being denied on the website, white people will be automatically put on a standby list.
“Part of the reason we ask that is because of the funding that we receive,” AARTH consultant Twanda Hill told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “They want to know. … We have funding because we can reach people of color. Federal funding, state funding, county funding. They want to know who are we serving.”
If you’re a person of color, you can move forward and schedule a vaccine appointment if there is an opening. But if you’re white, you are automatically placed on a standby list. This bars you from continuing the process. AARTH says they will contact the white person if there is an opening.
The first list, according to Hill, is a waitlist for people of color, should a vaccine appointment open up. If the waitlist is emptied and vaccine availabilities eventually open up, only then will a white person on the standby list be contacted.
This policy effectively bars white people from accessing taxpayer-funded vaccines set up through the state. Hill argues their system isn’t truly exclusionary. A small percentage of white people on the standby list make it through. She also notes that people who lie about their race won’t be turned away.
Hill could not specify which governmental agency AARTH received its funding from for this project. Public Health — Seattle & King County tells the Jason Rantz Show they do not have a contract with AARTH.
State DOH spokespeople refuse to directly answer whether or not vaccine providers may discriminate based on race. They were given four opportunities over email to directly answer the question.
Instead, they frame their race-exclusionary vaccination policy around prioritizing communities of color. It is DOH policy that white people, or anyone the department deems at less risk than others, “may not be able to participate in a specific event or get an appointment in a specific block of time.”
Spokesperson Franji Mayes told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that they’re looking to connect with communities of color because of “systemic inequities” in health care.
Kristen Maki, another spokesperson, explains “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.”
But under the current process, an older white person with obesity and cancer is at a higher risk than a young and healthy Black person. Yet the white Washingtonian would be denied access based exclusively on his skin color at AARTH. Why? Because, according to Mayes, “dealing with racism is a stressor that is bad for health and life expectancy.”
Spokespeople from both King County and the City of Seattle say they do not allow their partners to offer or withhold vaccines based on race.
Instead, they offer targeted pop-ups in neighborhoods with higher at-risk populations and outreach to community organizations to better promote available vaccine events. This way allows the county and city to reach an ethnically diverse group of people most likely to be low-income and experience access issues, without leaving out white people experiencing the same problem. This is how it should be done.
But the DOH doesn’t seem to understand.
“This prioritization is similar to an event like free breast cancer screening for people without health insurance,” spokesperson Kristen Maki explained over email. “If event organizers place someone who does have health insurance and wants a screening on standby, that person isn’t being denied a screening. They don’t experience the same barriers to getting health care as the people the event was created to help, and placing them on standby means they aren’t getting a screening instead of someone whose only access is through the event.”