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Next phase of Vt. vaccination program set to begin January 25

Published: Jan. 15, 2021 at 6:39 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 15, 2021 at 3:29 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont officials Friday announced that the next phase of COVID-19 vaccine distribution will go to those 75 and older starting January 25. Unlike neighboring New Hampshire and New York, where the next phase included those 65 and older, health officials say with the current limited supply of doses, they want to focus on the demographic for whom COVID-19 is most deadly.

For 78-year-old John Faunce, the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan means he will feel safer when he steps outside his Waterbury Center home for the first time in nearly 10 months. “I haven’t gone in a store or anything since March 2nd,” he said. “I miss people.”

Starting January 25 Faunce and all those 75 and older will be able to register online to get vaccinated. But as the Scott administration acknowledges, Faunce anticipates problems. “I’m a little concerned with 49,000 people trying to hit that website,” he said. “I assure you we’re going to wreck it on that first day.”

“We expect that there will be a bit of a bottleneck in the beginning,” Gov. Phil Scott said Friday.

Eligible persons can register online or by phone on the 25th, but the state is urging people to use the online platform so the phone system doesn’t get overwhelmed.

On January 27, the first Vermonters aged 75 and older and living on their own will start to get their shots. The process will work similarly to testing sites. “You’ll have a receptionist, you’ll have somebody that’ll check you in, and then you’ll have somebody that administers your shot, and then you’ll have somebody that visually observes you for 15 minutes or more before you leave,” explained AHS Secretary Mike Smith.

During the appointment, people will also make another appointment for the second dose. The state is setting up clinics across Vermont. Some will be state-run and others will partner with pharmacies, hospitals, and other providers. For those who can’t leave their home, EMS or home health services will come to them. “Once, you have an appointment, it will be very important that you make every effort to keep it,” Smith said.

Those who miss their appointment could mean a potentially spoiled dose. Officials project it will take until at least early spring to immunize every Vermonter 65 years and older. They say for now, given the state’s allocation of doses, this plan gets shots in people’s arms as fast as possible. But the governor says the timeline is flexible. “If we get more supply, we’ll get through that band much quicker, and then we’ll move onto the next band,” he said.

Residents like 71-year-old Russell Frank, who don’t fall into this first eligible group say they’re happy to wait, now that the state is being transparent about the timeline. “I think that that’s a fine way to go forward. I think people just need to be patient and understanding that this is going to take some time,” he said.

The next eligible grouping will be people aged 70 and older, then after that, people 65 and over. Both Vermonters I talked to today say they will continue to live a cautious lifestyle until the rest of the state’s population is vaccinated.

The state has not released either the website or phone number to sign up. Officials urged Vermonters to not call or email providers with how to sign up until the information is released.

HEALTH UPDATE

Governor Phil Scott Friday extended the state of emergency to February 15. But the governor did open the spigot on school sports sightly. Starting on Monday, practices can expand including downhill and cross country skiing in small groups, but competition is still not allowed.

The state’s positivity rate is 2.7% but it’s higher in Addison County, primarily due to the outbreak at the Victory Baptist Church in Vergennes. There are 115 cases linked to that outbreak now. Overall the state is monitoring 42 outbreaks and nearly 400 situations.

Vermont schools continue to see low case-counts compared to the general population, according to Education Secretary Dan French. The state tested 2,200 school staff members this week and there was one positive case.

As of Friday, Vermont health officials reported 142 new coronavirus cases for a total of 9,734. There have been a total of 163 deaths. The state’s percent positive seven-day average is 2.7%. A total of 284,215 people have been tested, 188 travelers are being monitored, 12,258 have completed monitoring, and 6,506 have recovered.

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