UVM Health Network winding down mass vaccination sites

Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 5:26 PM EDT
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ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) - It’s a sign of better times -- the UVM Health Network is winding down mass vaccination sites around the state, including the Champlain Expo.

The Champlain Valley Fairgrounds was almost like a ghost town Friday after the car carrying the last vaccine recipient exited the Expo.

The location played a key role starting this spring in Vermont’s coronavirus response and helping push the state on Monday to its 80% milestone. “Vermonters have really done their part in coming in and being willing to take appointments when we had them and filling up our schedule,” said Alicia Lunde with the UVM Medical Center.

From the early days of setting up surge hospitals, to drive through COVID tests, and finally to administering vaccines on a mass scale. UVMMC’s Jon Godaire was there to administer the first shots in January. “It truly felt like the golden ticket just to be able to feel safe and secure, I feel like for most people. I think we had upwards of 150 appointments in a day, and at our peak, we had almost 1,200 patients a day,” Godaire said.

The mass clinic at Porter Hospital in Middlebury closed last week and the clinic at the old JCPenney in Berlin will close next week.

Between the three facilities, the state-administered more than 115,000 doses.

Staff members like Lunde say it was a collective effort. “We can offer the shots but if nobody comes in to get them, then we’re only doing part of our job,” she said.

The Vermont National Guard is also winding down its participation too. “In every case, every one of them has stepped and been honored to serve the people of Vermont,” said Brigadier General David Manfredi. He says over 1,000 airmen and soldiers played various roles standing up a triage center, preparing for a flood of patients that never came. They also distributed food and operated mass testing and vaccine sites. They’ll now focus on helping the departments of health and emergency management. “Mostly, over at the strategic stockpile warehouse where we’re assembling test kit assembly.

In the months ahead, both the National Guard and UVM will continue to play a role at smaller, walk-in clinics. Vermonters can also get vaccinated through their primary care doctor. Godaire says they’ll be ready. “Going to an outpatient center with 80 patients a day, we’re going to be standing there with our feet tapping and fingers crossed,” he said.

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