Vermonters weigh pandemic future; Middlebury College will require fall vaccinations

Doctors in the state say the pandemic is evolving and peoples' response should keep evolving as well depending on the state of the pandemic
Published: Jul. 13, 2022 at 9:03 AM EDT
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MIDDLEBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - The future of the coronavirus pandemic is unclear, but vaccines and changing policies seem certain.

Middlebury College leaders are tracking the data and making policies based on what they see.

That’s why this fall, students and staff will still be required to be vaccinated unless there is a medical or religious exemption.

“When we do think it’s going to benefit the majority of people on our campus and in our community, we would go ahead and mandate it if it’s in accordance with the CDC and Department of Health,” said Dr. Mark Peluso, Middlebury College’s chief medical officer and college physician.

For the 2022-2023 school year, primary round and booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine are required to attend school.

But COVID changes fast, so Peluso says they try to plan ahead and be flexible. That can mean mask requirements or recommendations, grab-and-go dining or relaxed guidance.

“We look at the current prevalence in the community,” Peluso said. “What’s going on in the health care system and we act accordingly.”

Dr. Tim Lahey, an infectious disease expert with the University of Vermont Medical Center, says there are going to be peaks and valleys during the pandemic.

Moving forward, it’s important to think about how people personally approach the pandemic.

“Like how much it impacts our lives, to how much it should, how much threat there is to people we care about,” said Lahey.

Lahey says that means watching hospitalizations and the severity of illness as the virus spreads. It also means watching variants and subvariants to figure out whether they have patterns in severity and transmission. And doctors are deciding about booster shots.

“We need to know how they impact infection and more importantly how they impact severe illness,” said Lahey.

Future boosters for all age groups will hinge on the data doctors get about severe illness, which is still rolling in.

He recommends taking precautions that make you and those around you feel comfortable as cases rise and fall and remembering to focus on those you trust, like your doctor.

“On any day of the year, I don’t care how many years the pandemic is going on, I care about living a good life, and I care about taking care of my neighbors and you know what, I can do both,” Lahey said.

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