Vermont Unconstitutionally Distributes COVID Vaccine Based on Race

Shame on the State of Vermont. Under the state’s plan for distributing the COVID vaccine, all blacks, indigenous people, and people of color are eligible to get the vaccine. Only whites 40 years and older and eligible to get the vaccine. So, imagine a 39 year-old white father of four who is the sole breadwinner for his family and fears being sick and out of work. He can’t get the vaccine under state policy but a black man in the same circumstances can.

If anyone bothered to take the matter to court, this racially based vaccine distribution would likely be struck down. To treat similarly situated people differently based on a suspect classification such as race, Vermont would have to show that the vaccine distribution plan is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest. This standard is called strict scrutiny and it is often said to be “strict in theory, fatal in fact.” This is not akin to allowing colleges to use race as one of many factors to achieve a diverse student body. With this policy, race is the deciding factor for vaccination of our hypothetical 39 year-old breadwinners. Vermont is rationing health care solely based on the color of one’s skin.

Vermont might try to argue that studies show COVID-19 hospitalization rates among minorities are about 4.7 times the rate of non-Hispanic white people. While this might be true, it would have to admit that there is no evidence that minorities have genetic or other biological factors that make them more likely contract COVID-19 or have bad outcomes. 

The higher hospitalization rates can be explained by certain underlying health conditions. And Vermont’s distribution plan already gives priority (regardless of race) to persons with high-risk health conditions. Thus, the “need” for a racial classification evaporates.

Vermont’s “Republican” Governor Phil Scott has defended the race-based distribution because 20 percent of minorities have received one dose as compared to 33 percent of non-Hispanic white residents. Of course, rather than making a racial classification in distribution of medicine, Scott could create more vaccine distribution centers in minority neighborhoods or craft some other approach that stops short of rationing health care based on race.

The Phil Scott’s of the world don’t want a color-blind society where people are treated equally. They prefer wokeness and a racial spoils system that allows them to virtue signal. This is the wrong message to send in a multi-ethnic society. It implies that we are but different races fighting for power so we can distribute goods and services to our own people or our allies. This is a recipe for national disaster and is happening right now.

William J. Watkins, Jr. is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and author of the Independent books, Crossroads for Liberty, Reclaiming the American Revolution, and Patent Trolls.
Beacon Posts by William J. Watkins, Jr. | Full Biography and Publications
  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless