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Vaccination signups for Vt. high school students to open Saturday

Published: Apr. 16, 2021 at 6:36 AM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Gov. Phil Scott Friday announced that vaccine registration for high school-aged students 16 to 18 will open on Saturday, two days before the general 16-plus population window opens on Monday. It comes as the governor extended the state of emergency for another month, giving him authority to make COVID rules through May 15.

The vaccination signup will open at 10 a.m. Saturday and 16 and 17 years will need their parent or guardian’s permission. The 16-plus vaccination signup window will open on Monday at 6 a.m. as planned.

In making the announcement, state officials said the step will hopefully give students a little joy at the end of their high school journey.

“I’ve never been excited for a shot, but I’m excited for this one,” said Elizabeth Crawford, an 18-year-old senior at Burlington High School. That’s because now she knows she’ll likely finish senior year the way she always wanted. “I’ve worked these four years of high school and I thought I wasn’t even going to have a graduation.”

“This is a milestone in their lives, something that many people remember, their graduation,” said Gov. Phil Scott. He says while in-person graduations are the goal, getting all students back in the classroom by the end of the year probably isn’t possible. Only a third of schools are fully in-person right now and officials couldn’t say how many should be by the end of spring break.

All the slots opening Saturday are specifically for the 21,400 eligible teens and are for Pfizer vaccines, the only vaccine federally approved for children under 18. “The public health equity case to be made is to make sure that they have access to the only vaccine that they can possibly be administered, which is Pfizer,” said VT. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine.

Those 18 and older have the option to take the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Following federal recommendations, the Scott administration is extending the pause on the Johnson & Johnson shot until next Friday. Levine says though there’s only a one-in-a-million chance of suffering from the rare blood clot condition, it’s not worth the risk of resuming the rollout. “It is three words -- ‘Do no harm,’ he said. “The medical community and the public health community at large have felt that we need to have an extra little bit of time to get more information so that we truly cannot do harm.”

Officials say they don’t expect the pause will push back the state’s vaccination rollout. They’re hoping to reschedule all the 5,800-plus canceled Johnson & Johnson appointments by the end of the month through both health department-run clinics and pharmacies. By Saturday the state will have 49,000 appointment slots and they’re confident all Vermonters 16-plus, including Elizabeth Crawford, will secure a spot.

“If I had to encourage people my age, I’d be like, ‘Oh well, you can hang out with your friends!’’ Crawford said.

COVID variants have now been discovered in 10 of the state’s 14 counties, but Levine says they are likely in every county. The most prevalent is the U.K variant. And those more contagious variants are keeping Vermont’s case numbers high, especially among young people, which is why he says vaccinating young Vermonters right now is a priority.

VERMONT COVID DEATHS CONTINUE AMIDST RACE TO VACCINATE

Despite a strong vaccination uptake among Vermont’s older adults, more people are dying.

There have been 10 so far in the month of April, bringing the state’s total to 242 Friday. Commissioner Levine says most of those getting seriously ill and dying from the virus were hospitalized but a couple of them died at home. They ranged in age from 50 to older than 90 and there were more women than men. Many had pre-existing conditions.

“On the very human level, each and every one represents much more than just a statistic, and we extend our sympathies to family and friends,” Levine said.

He says the majority of those who died were labeled “not fully vaccinated.” Health officials are still working to figure out if any of them were partially vaccinated yet. The state’s projections are for 10 to 20 deaths this month.

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