How the state is working to boost Vermont’s COVID booster shot rate

Published: Dec. 13, 2021 at 5:48 PM EST
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont leads the country in the percentage of people fully vaccinated and boosted. More than 203,000 Vermonters, 18 and older, are fully boosted. That’s 47%.

But the state says that still isn’t enough. So the state epidemiologist says they are creating walk-in clinics and other opportunities this holiday season, as part of an effort called Boost Up Vermont.

“Getting a booster is more and more important,” Vermont Epidemiologist Patsy Kelso said.

Kelso says being vaccinated will protect you but the effectiveness drops off over time.

She says by getting the booster shot you are safer, especially as more transmissible strains like delta and omicron appear.

So the state is making it easier for you to get boosted.

“If we put it in places where people are and they stumble across an opportunity to get the vaccine, it takes away an element of having to plan ahead and schedule an appointment,” Kelso said.

At the former Diamond Run Mall in Rutland, Rescue Inc., an ambulance service out of Brattleboro, set up a COVID vaccine clinic.

They administer about 200 shots a day, four days a week. The majority are booster shots.

“A lot of it is scheduled, but we do accept walk-ins,” said Christopher Finnell, the program coordinator for Rescue Inc.

After Rescue Inc. wraps up in Rutland, they will head to Hartford, where Monday evening they have about 300 people scheduled. Finnell says they average about 100 walk-ins.

In January, they hope to be in more locations.

“To try to get more broader access in the Southern Vermont area,” Finnell said.

Leah Denton of the Rutland Regional Medical Center says the hospital administers between 85 and 150 shots a day. But because they need to know how much vaccine to have on hand, RRMC is primarily by appointment only.

“Sometimes we can’t accommodate all of the people that might come for a walk-in, but at least they will know where we are and if they have to come back the next day, they usually do,” Denton said.

But signing up online can be difficult. Kelso admits the health department’s website is challenging to use and may have deterred some people from getting their booster.

Others, like Tim Clain of Proctor, found ways around it to get their shot.

“I had some health care workers in my office and they said there’s a booster shop right down the road from you today, show up at ten of three and I bet they’ll have a shot for you because they’re not going to get rid of it. And that’s what I did,” Clain said.

Meanwhile, through Boost Up Vermont, the state is aiming to make it even easier to vaccinate and boost, especially for the 18-29 age group, which lags behind all the other adults when it comes to vaccination and boosters.

Reporter Olivia Lyons: Have you thought about doing vaccine clinics at the bars?

Patsy Kelso: We’ve thought about doing clinics in a whole lot of places. And I would be surprised if we didn’t have them in some really creative places going into the coming weeks and months.

There is a helpline you can call if you run into issues trying to sign up for a shot.

Health Department - 855-722-7878

Mon.-Fri. - 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Sat.-Sun. - 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

And a reminder-- the booster shot is most effective 10 days after you get it. So if you want to have the shot’s full potential by Christmas, you need to get your booster by Thursday.

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