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Vt. officials concerned by reduced federal vaccine allocation

Gov. Phil Scott at Thursday's briefing.
Gov. Phil Scott at Thursday's briefing.(WCAX)
Published: Dec. 31, 2020 at 5:48 AM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont Governor Phil Scott and administration officials Thursday marked the 100th media briefing since the start of the pandemic. It comes as the state faces a shortfall in expected vaccine allotments from the federal government.

Vermont’s allocation of both coronavirus vaccines has been cut to 7,800 doses next week from the 11,000 that was expected. Governor Phil Scott Thursday said if federal officials keep decreasing the amount of the vaccine the state receives, it will drag out the massive effort to vaccinate Vermonters. He says the drop in allotments is unclear and that it’s in the federal government’s hands. “We’re ready to provide for the vaccinations but we need the supply. And it seems as though there’s a pent up demand for it as well,” Scott said.

As of Wednesday night, Vermont had received 37,825 doses of both vaccines. Health workers have administered over 14,000 of those doses, though the state says there is a lag in how the percentage of vaccine administered is calculated. They say it will exponentially ramp up the number of Vermonters who receive the vaccine, but having the allocation cut will slow the process.

“At the allocation levels we have right now, it’s going to be hard to keep up in a couple of weeks. It’s going to be hard to keep with our vaccination schedule given what is coming in,” said AHS Secretary Mike Smith.

So far, doses have gone to health care workers, long-term care facilities, and other medical practices. That includes staff at Estey Dental Center in Brattleboro. The staff there say Brattleboro Memorial Hospital reached out to them to set up appointments. “It was a complete surprise, and yes, completely smooth, completely easy. We’re still in disbelief that it’s done already for us,” said the clinic’s Cynthia Courtemanche.

Leaders say the state has a number of ways of communicating to people in group 1A, including sending out notifications to the clinical community and meeting with hospital officials who will administer vaccines. But still, there’s more work ahead in the new year. “In January there is a lot more work to do as we get the 1A health care workers vaccinated,” Smith said.

Outbreaks in long-term care facilities continue to be a chief concern. There are currently 539 active cases in those facilities. That is why they are a top priority for vaccinations. As of Thursday, the state says 21 of the 37 skilled nursing facilities in Vermont have received the first dose of the vaccine. The rest are expected to have it by the end of next week.

OUTBREAK AT VERMONT VETERAN’S HOME

There’s an outbreak at the Vermont Veteran’s home in Bennington. Six staff members have tested positive so far. The state has deployed its rapid response team and facility-wide testing is happening Thursday and that will continue twice a week. Vaccinations will also happen there as planned.

MUTANT STRAIN B117 UPDATE

Dr. Levine talked about the new mutation of the coronavirus -- now found in Colorado and California -- is likely to continue to spread. He says the mutation, known as B117, is more contagious but the symptoms are the same. He said all indications are that the current vaccine will be effective against it. He said the country’s vaccination rate needs to be accelerated.

EDUCATION UPDATE

Testing of staff at Vermont schools continues. Education Secretary dan french says the positivity rate remains very low -- an average of 0.26%. French says he thinks it’s the only such testing program going on in the country. About 40% of staff are participating, or about 6,000 staff members tested weekly.

Districts must take staff availability into account, but there’s a continued push from state officials for in-person learning following the holiday break based on the data so far.

As of Thursday, Vermont health officials reported 130 new coronavirus cases for a total of 7,412. There have been a total of 136 deaths. The state’s percent positive seven-day average is 2.3%. A total of 697,705 tests have been conducted, 268 travelers are being monitored, 11,791 have completed monitoring, and 4,959 have recovered.

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