Washington State’s Department of Health is reportedly allowing vaccine providers to discriminate on who gets the vaccine first according to the color of their skin.
Jason Rantz of 770 KTTH reported that the African American Reach and Teach Health Ministry (AARTH) is a vaccine provider that puts white people on a waiting list for the vaccine and only allows them to receive one if there are appointments available and no people of color are currently waiting for an appointment.
People who attempt to sign up for a vaccine through the AARTH will be asked for their skin color. If the user selects that they are not a “Black, Indigenous or Person of Color (BIPOC),” they will automatically be put on a standby list, told they will be contacted if an appointment becomes available. People who say they are BIPOC are allowed to continue through the website to choose an appointment time, if any are available.
“Part of the reason we ask that is because of the funding that we receive,” AARTH consultant Twanda Hill told Rantz. “They want to know. … We have funding because we are able to reach people of color. Federal funding, state funding, county funding. They want to know who are we serving.”
Hill told Rantz that there is another list for people of color, a waitlist for them to be notified first if a vaccine appointment becomes available. Once this waitlist is clear and appointments become available, then white people on the standby list will 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,” Rantz reported. “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.”
The State Department of Health refused to directly tell Rantz whether AARTH’s policy violated state law, arguing instead that the policies are about equity. The DOH told Rantz that anyone who is at a lower risk to contract the virus (which apparently includes white people as a whole), “may not be able to participate in a specific event or get an appointment in a specific block of time.”
Multiple state spokespeople told Rantz that communities of color are prioritized due to “inequities” in health care, with one spokesperson saying, “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.”
As Rantz noted, however, the current process means “an older white person with obesity and cancer” would be denied access to the vaccine due to his or her skin color, while “a young and healthy Black person” would gain access to a vaccine appointment earlier.
Rantz noted that AARTH consultant Twanda Hill asked him if he was expecting the system to be open to everybody.
“That it has to just be totally a free for all and whoever comes in, comes in? And if that’s the case, then why would the Black church do it?” Hill asked, according to Rantz.
Rantz then reported that the AARTH offers the vaccine to people who are not black.