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MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont Gov. Phil Scott on Monday condemned the “racist response” to his administration's decision to make Black, indigenous, and people of color of any age eligible for a coronavirus vaccine before residents of other races.

The state granted preferential vaccine access April 1 to the BIPOC community and anyone living in their households. The Republican Scott called their disparity in vaccination rates compared to non-Hispanic whites “unacceptable.”

About 20% of the state's BOPIC population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared with an about 33% vaccination rate for non-Hispanic white residents, Scott said in a statement Monday.

“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," Scott said in the statement.

Vermonters of other races aged 40 and over became eligible Monday, with those 30 and over scheduled for eligibility April 12 and all others 16 and up eligible April 19.

Scott said his office, the state Health Department and “those hardworking individuals getting us vaccinated, have been subjected" recently "to vitriolic and inappropriate comments in social media and other forums regarding this decision.”

“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,” he said in the statement.

The presence of the virus in Vermont has been increasing in recent weeks. Officials say the state is in a race to vaccinate as many people as possible to help stop the spread.

Officials blame the increase on a number of more-transmissible variants of the virus that are being found in Vermont and among young people who are more socially active but not yet eligible to be vaccinated.

Scott and Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine are urging Vermonters to remember the guidance that has helped the state maintain a relatively low rate of COVID-19 cases during the pandemic: Wear masks, maintain social distance and avoid large gatherings.

In other pandemic related developments:


GOVERNOR GETS VACCINE

Gov. Phil Scott received his COVID-19 vaccine on Monday.

Scott, a Republican, and his wife Diana McTeague Scott got the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot at a state-run clinic at Montpelier High School, his office said.

“Like the 220,000 Vermonters who’ve already received at least one dose, I am thrilled to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” Scott said in a written statement.“ Vaccinations are how we can put this pandemic behind us, and it will not be long before every adult in the state has the opportunity to be vaccinated.”

He urged Vermonters to do their part and sign up for the vaccine, “not only to protect yourself, but those around you as well.”


THE NUMBERS

Vermont reported 116 new cases of the coronavirus on Monday for a statewide total since the pandemic began of more than 20,260.

The Health Department reported that 23 people were hospitalized with three in intensive care.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont has risen over the past two weeks from 121.43 new cases per day on March 20 to 189.86 new cases per day on April 3.

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This story has been corrected to show that the office of Gov. Phil Scott, not the Health Department, reported on him getting a vaccine.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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