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State adds multiple clinics to get more Vermonters vaccinated

Published: May. 7, 2021 at 6:24 AM EDT|Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 7:20 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - The state of Vermont is engaging in a vaccination blitz this weekend.

To date, 65% of Vermonters have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. But when you drill down by age, you see the youngest Vermonters are lagging far behind. Just 33% of 16- and 17-year-olds have had a shot. And it’s only slightly higher for 18- to 29-year-olds.

Now, the state wants to bring the shot to as many people as possible, including those young people.

At a walk-in vaccination clinic in Essex Junction on Friday, there was a steady flow of nearly 1,000 Vermonters seeking the shot.

“I was worried I would need a car when I got here but I asked around and it was super smooth and the process went really quickly and everything just worked really nicely,” said Elijah Klein of Burlington.

This clinic is one of the state’s latest efforts to make vaccines as accessible to as many people as possible, especially young people who are lagging behind.

“Vaccines are our ticket out of this pandemic but it’s going to take everyone’s buy-in, especially younger Vermonters,” said Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont.

To boost those numbers, the state is standing up clinics at racetracks, schools, town halls and downtown centers. Walk in, get a shot, wait 15 minutes and then you’re on your way.

“This means offering vaccine in ways that don’t require logging into a website, crowbarring an appointment into your busy schedule or even to drive a long distance,” Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said.

Vermonters can get COVID shots at several drive-thru and mobile clinic events across the state this weekend.

Friday, there will be a no-appointment-needed drive-thru clinic at the Tunbridge Fairgrounds starting at 10 a.m. It will have the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

There will also be a clinic Friday at Northern Vermont University.

Castleton will hold one Saturday.

Also on Saturday, clinics will be held at the Bear Ridge Speedway in Bradford and Devil’s Bowl Speedway in West Haven with no appointment needed, starting at 4 p.m. If you get vaccinated at Bear Ridge, you can stay to see the race for free or get a voucher to catch another race.

There will also be eight mobile clinics in Essex County and one in Caledonia County this weekend, all will offer the J&J shot. There are some walk-in spots available, but people can also make appointments.

The state is working to set up more clinics, including one at the Highgate Airport on May 13.

Click here to find out more about the clinic locations and to register for your shot or call 855-722-7878.

The state is also in talks with big employers about setting up clinics at job sites.

And next week, the feds may approve the Pfizer vaccine for kids 12-15.

School districts are working on reaching out to parents to keep them up to speed.

We asked some young people why they think uptake is low among their peers.

“It could be the work schedule, people not having the time if they work a 9 to 5,” said Connor MacKenzie of Montpelier.

“Young people are afraid to take away vaccines from people who they think need it more than they do,” said Robyn Dudley of Northfield.

Even with the recent outreach to younger Vermonters, some tell me that young people still aren’t hearing the message.

“In my friend groups at least, they don’t even know that they qualify. So when I do tell them they qualify, they’re in absolute shock and they’re immediately trying to find a place to vaccinate them,” said Aileen Diaz of Northfield.

Leaders say spreading the word and helping others get the shot will speed up the return to normal.

The governor says bars, concerts, gatherings, weddings and no more masks all depend on everyone signing up.

The governor says we’re still on track to meet our reopening benchmark next month, but he also says the state is always open to new ideas of how to reach Vermonters where they’re at.

Unlike some states that aren’t using all the doses they are allocated and are even declining to accept some of the doses they are offered, Vermont is keeping up with its vaccination schedule.

“We don’t have that problem yet in Vermont,” Scott said. “Obviously, it’s been reduced a bit, but we are still taking our full allocation and we’re asking for more as well.”

VOLUNTARY TESTING FOR CHILDREN

The state wants to make it easier than ever to test your kid for coronavirus.

The Vermont Agency of Education announced Friday it’s launching a school-based pilot program.

It’s a voluntary program, so parents have to give permission.

Only students 8 and older who aren’t vaccinated will be tested.

The districts participating starting this month include Burlington, Grand Isle, Orleans Southwest, Caledonia Central, Two Rivers and Southwest Vermont Technical Center.

“The new testing will likely lead to identification of additional cases, but this is good because it’ll help us in our efforts to stop the virus from spreading,” Vt. Education Secretary Dan French said.

French says up to 6,300 students could benefit just in those six districts.

He says plans to put this program in place for the summer and fall aren’t set yet.

THE NUMBERS

As of Friday, Vermont health officials reported 75 new coronavirus cases for a total of 23,393. There have been a total of 249 deaths.

The state’s percent positive seven-day average is 1.2%.

A total of 384,423 people have been tested, and 21,118 have recovered.

Seventeen people were hospitalized, four of them in the ICU.

Some 104,900 Vermonters have received their first dose and 255,300 have received first and last doses.

Levine says we had a week of new daily cases under 100.

The state is working to increase the number of people being vaccinated in order to hit the June 1 goal of having more than 70% of eligible Vermonters vaccinated. The state’s goal is to lift most COVID-19-related restrictions by July 4.

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