Published: 11:53 EDT, 29 September 2021 | Updated: 12:01 EDT, 29 September 2021
On Tuesday a federal complaint was filed against the state of New Hampshire with the Health and Human Services Department's Office of Civil Rights on behalf of an unidentified 28-year-old white New Hampshire man.
The complaint says that the man, who is diabetic and therefore at elevated medical risk, tried to schedule a vaccination on April 2 but was told by the Public Health Council of the Upper Valley in a recorded message that the appointments were 'fully subscribed for people of color.'
According to a new complaint, a 28-year-old New Hampshire man tried to schedule a vaccination on April 2 but was told that the appointments were 'fully subscribed for people of color' (file image)
The 28-year-old was eventually able to get his vaccination a month later on May 2, but the complaint said the state should be held accountable for its 'blatant discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin'
According to the complaint, the state received millions in federal funding, including over $500 million from HHS to administer its health programs and $43 million to support vaccination efforts specifically, and using those funds in a 'discriminatory manner' would violate federal laws.
The complaint said when Public Health Council Director Alice Ely said she was 'thrilled' to be able to vaccinate 'so many of our neighbors who identify as black, Indigenous or a person of color,' that was an ' insult to the many people, especially those at elevated medical risk, who were forced to wait behind younger healthy college students simply because of their race, skin color, and national origin.'
The complaint is demanding that HHS open a compliance review and withhold funding of the state HHS and the Public Health Council of the Upper Valley until they commit in writing that they won't discriminate on the basis of race.
About 70 percent of both black and White adults have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine - closing an earlier divide - Pew's survey found
'Although it is unclear if the state continues to discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin, at least as late as June 27, 2021, the state's main COVID vaccine website continued to state that 'appointments are limited' and 'dependent on [vaccine] supply,' which left open the door to state discriminating against whites.'
The New Hampshire COVID vaccine rollout had five stages of eligibility that first prioritized high-risk health workers, first responders, and older adults living in residential care settings followed by people 65 and older, and certain medically vulnerable people who are at significantly higher risk, and certain persons who work with medically vulnerable persons.
The complaint says on top of that criteria the state took racial and ethnic considerations into who was eligible for the vaccine and set aside 10 percent of available vaccines for 'disproportionately impacted populations' that was distributed to a 'familiar and accessible to the target population.'
The state relied upon the COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index (CCVI) which was produced by a privately funded think tank, to determine who would receive the vaccine ahead of others based on race, the complaint said.
According to the CCVI minorities were identified as 'all persons except white, non-Hispanic' and the complaint accuses the state on relying on the CCVI's 'patently racist stereotype' that non-whites are inherently 'less resilient' than whites in order to justify deprioritizing only white people for vaccines.
Researchers have long studied the role race plays in medicine and it has been at the center of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In May researchers at the Wayne State University School of Medicine reported that black Americans were more likely to distrust the medical community compared to white Americans.
Researchers also found that black participants at the time were half as likely to get a COVID vaccine compared to white participants and said studies showed that historical and contemporary experiences-such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and experiences of racism in the U.S. healthcare system- were behind black Americans' vaccine hesitancy.
But attitudes about the COVID vaccine among black Americans seem to be changing and the racial gap in COVID-19 vaccinations is closing.
A recent Pew Research Center survey revealed that 70 percent of black adults and 72 percent of white adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
The findings from the study indicated that, despite continued polarization, the majority of Americans are on the same page about vaccines and other Covid precautions.
But as vaccine rollout has continued dynamics have shifted and in the spring and summer white Americans got vaccinated at lower rates while more black Americans sought their shots.