Covid-19 updates, Featured

Countdown to vaccination

By Brooke Geery
The Holiday Inn in Rutland Town is the site of RRMC’s Covid-19 vaccination clinic. Rutland County has vaccinated 37.4%, or 18,434 of its residents as of Tuesday, March 23 — the highest rate in the state.

All Vermonters are eligible by April 19

Governor Phil Scott has laid out a timeline for all remaining age bands to sign up for Covid-19 vaccination.

Based on the supply assurances from the federal government, the state says all Vermonters who want to be vaccinated can expect be fully immunized by July 1.

Additionally, high school students will be vaccinated this fall “by the time they go back to school,” Scott said, Tuesday. “Younger children [can expect to be vaccinated] by the first part of the new year,” he said.

Starting 8:15 a.m. on Thursday, March 25, Vermonters age 60 or older can register. Scott will be among those signing up on Thursday, he said at the press conference on Tuesday, March 23.

On Monday, March 29, Vermonters age 50 or older become eligible and every Monday thereafter another 10-year age bracket will qualify.

Eligible Vermonters are asked register online at healthvermont.gov/MyVaccine (preferred) or by calling 855-722-7878.

Prior to March 25, Vermonters age 65 and older, and those 16 and older with specified high risk health conditions, were eligible in addition to staff within the education, public safety and healthcare systems.

As of March 23, 179,600 people have been vaccinated in Vermont with 82,500 receiving their first dose and 97,100 receiving both their “first and last dose,” according to Mike Smith, secretary of Human Services.

Because of the state’s prioritization of its most vulnerable, 86% of Vermonters 70+ have been vaccinated; and 66% of those age 65-69.

“Our age banding approach has allowed us to first protect those at greatest risk of hospitalization and death, which is our top priority, and our approach has been effective. In fact, while we have one of the oldest populations in the country, we have among the highest percentage of people age 65 and older vaccinated,” said Scott in a statement, March 19.

Additionally, about 23,000 educators and childcare workers have received a first dose or made appointment for their first dose, Smith said, Tuesday. Vaccination clinics for educators continue throughout the state with two scheduled locally in Rutland and Hartland on March 29.

Recently, the state has been vaccinating 3,700-7,900 residents per day with an average of 5,000 per day, and will be increasing capacity as federal allocations continue to rise, Smith said.

This week the state expects 23,000 doses of Covid vaccine to be distributed and administered, Scott said Tuesday, which is 5,000 higher than last week due to one-time increases from Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson to both the state and pharmacy programs.

In anticipation of greater federal allocations in April and all Vermonters becoming eligible, the state plans to activate a larger contingent of National Guardsmen on April 15 to help distribute and deliver doses.

Full efficacy

Officials said the length of the entire process will vary, but Vermonters can expect it to take up to two months from the time of registration to the point where a person is considered to be fully vaccinated. This includes the anticipated time between registration and the first dose, the time between the first and last dose, and the two weeks needed after a last dose for the vaccine to be fully effective.

“Things are indeed moving forward but we’re not here quite yet,” said Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD, on Tuesday. “If you’ve been listening to health experts across the nation you’d see that the medical community is all aligned in where we stand… it’s not a doom and gloom message but nor can we declare victory.

“We know the end is near, we can almost see it. But it’s also the point in the race where stumbles can be most risky,” Levine emphasized. “We’re still in a very delicate time where the virus and its variants can and will take advantage of us if we let our guard down. It has the potential to set us back in our efforts hampering us in the race.

“Only by keeping our distance, wearing our masks and avoiding crowds can we continue to keep the virus at bay while we vaccinate as many Vermonters as we can as quickly as we can. Keep gatherings small, try to avoid traveling that’s not essential, and get tested,” he concluded.

In Vermont, there have been 25 cases of vaccinated people testing positive for Covid-19. But none have been seriously ill or hospitalized, Levine said.

“Of the total 179,600 people vaccinated in Vermont, this is a very very small percentage,” Levine said.

Scott added that “it takes six weeks after the first dose until full efficacy; and two weeks after second dose… it’s unclear of those 25 positives if they were at full efficacy,” he said.

A plea to the youth

Levine made a plea to younger Vermonters on Tuesday, after commissioner of Financial Regulation Michael Pieciak noted that the average age for Covid cases in Vermont has dropped to under 30, at age 29.

“A huge part of the emphasis has been on older and more vulnerable Vermonters, but today I’m asking younger Vermonters to watching out for themselves and doing everything they can do to avoid getting Covid,” Levine said.

“Now as you’ve seen older people are far more protected by vaccines, or soon will be, so the next request I am making is to Vermonters —especially those in the teenage years to age 40 — is that you need to protect yourself. You’ve seen the data, the highest case counts are now among young people,” Levine continued.

“Why worry about protecting yourself? Because of a topic I haven’t touched upon recently, but which has made a comeback again in the news cycle: it’s long-haul Covid or PACS (Post-Acute Covid Syndrome),” Levine said. “It’s true we have so much more to learn about this and to understand how many people are at risk but whether the number is 10% or 30% all I know is that this pandemic has been called ‘the largest mass disabling event in some time.’ It does not spare a person because they’re young. We don’t know enough about it yet to accurately predict who might be at risk for chronic symptoms, those that continue to surface three or four months after the initial illness… they can have many possible manifestations from chronic fatigue to shortness of breath to exercise intolerance to brain fog or memory loss. I don’t want anyone to risk developing this, to have your lives hindered by what is starting to become an avoidable virus. To avoid it… Just don’t let your guard down now, it’s the homestretch — keep up with masking; keep a safe distance from others and avoid crowds, and get tested if you find you’ve been in a risky situation or think you might even have minor symptoms — and then get vaccinated when you have the chance. After enduring what you have for the past year you owe it to yourself… “The best vaccine for you is the one you can get right now,” Levine said.

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