COVID-19: Delays slow shots for kids under 5 at Vermont hospital

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/20/2022 2:09:14 AM
Modified: 8/20/2022 2:06:10 AM

WOODSTOCK — Although COVID-19 vaccines have been authorized for use in children younger than 5 since June, Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center’s practices in Woodstock and Windsor only began administering to that age group earlier this month.

“Each time a new vaccine is distributed or an age range changes, we are required to take the important step of updating our electronic medical record to properly and safely document the administration of vaccines,” said Dr. Joseph Perras, CEO of Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center, which includes the Ottauquechee Health Center in Woodstock as well as the Windsor hospital. “This is a complex and time-consuming process — yet a necessary one.”

It took the vendor who manages the clinics’ electronic medical record some time to set it up so that it could properly document the vaccine distribution, said Dr. Kimberly J. Aakre, a Mt. Ascutney pediatrician in Windsor. But at this point, Aakre said all the patients on the waiting list in Windsor have either gotten a vaccine or been scheduled to get one.

“It’s up and rolling at this point,” Aakre said. “We’re all set to go.”

Still, the delay in Woodstock spurred one Vermont grandmother of an Ottauquechee patient to pen a commentary for news website VTDigger this week describing her frustration.

Victoria Rhodin, a Montpelier resident, said her daughter and son-in-law took their 2½-year-old son to a well-child visit at the Ottauquechee Health Center three weeks ago only to learn that he could not get his COVID-19 shot, which he needs in order to meet his great-grandparents in person. The clinic told the parents that they would get a call when the vaccine became available there.

Frustrated by the delay, Rhodin subsequently tried dialing the clinic herself, which told her the same information. She then spoke with someone at the White River Junction district office of the Vermont Department of Health, who told her of upcoming vaccination clinics in Hartford and Woodstock.

Rhodin, in her commentary, suggested that “this runaround might be one of the reasons so few young children in Vermont have been vaccinated against COVID just a few weeks before the start of school.”

Vaccinations for children under 5 began in Vermont in late June. As of Wednesday, about 30% of children in that age group, or 8,000 out of 26,000 total, had gotten a first shot, according to Monica Ogelby, the immunization program manager for the Vermont Department of Health.

Uptake elsewhere has been slower. As of Aug. 10, just 7% of New Hampshire’s children under age 5 had gotten a first shot, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Nationally, 5.8% of children in that age group had gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Aug. 10, according to AAP data.

Ogelby said Vermont’s reliance on pediatricians to distribute COVID-19 vaccines is because most children in the state have a primary care home where they go regularly for well-child visits. Some parents may want the chance to ask their child’s pediatrician questions about vaccines, she said.

Ogelby said she did not think that the experience of Rhodin’s family was widely shared, and it was “shocking to me” to hear of the delays in administering the vaccine at the Ottauquechee Health Center, in part because both Ottauquechee and Mt. Ascutney’s Windsor practice have been good immunization partners in the past.

While some parents were “raring at the door” to get their children vaccinated, Aakre, the Mt. Ascutney pediatrician, said others have been hesitant to add another vaccine to the many shots that young children get. Other families also are hopeful that a vaccine under development might provide better protection against some of the newer variants of the virus that causes COVID-19.

“In general, Vermont families have been pretty good about taking it in and wanting it,” Aakre said. The state’s “numbers (are) pretty good compared with some of the national figures.”

Vaccination locations can be found online at, or Dartmouth Health patients can schedule vaccinations online through and people who are not DH patients can call the organization’s COVID-19 hotline at 603-650-1818, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday though Friday, and 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays.

Dartmouth Health series to focus on childhood vaccination

LEBANON — In collaboration with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, Dartmouth Health is set to launch a free virtual education series on childhood vaccination next month, according to a DH news release.

The release noted that as of mid-July, only 22.7% of children ages 5-11 years old and 44.1% of teens ages 12-19 in New Hampshire were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to DHHS data. In addition, reduced rates of vaccination against other childhood illnesses may spur the resurgence of other diseases.

“Vaccination is one of the most important tools in ensuring children live long, healthy lives, but misinformation and hesitation on the part of adults can cause a real hindrance in childhood vaccination rates,” Dr. Erik M. Shessler, associate medical director of general pediatrics at Dartmouth Health Children’s, said in the release.

The series, “Key Strategies to Promote Childhood Vaccination,” aims to offer information to health care providers and members of the public about vaccines — how they work, how they are evaluated for safety — and how people can help promote increased vaccination to protect public health.

The five planned sessions for the online Project ECHO series include: vaccine facts on Sept. 7; effective communication to increase uptake on Sept. 21; common misinformation on Oct. 5; health equity on Oct. 19; and an open topic to be determined based on issues that come up during the series on Nov. 2.

All sessions will be held from noon-1 p.m. Registration is required and free of charge. Registration is online at:

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at or 603-727-3213.

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