Vermont approaching 80% vaccination goal, but not there yet

Published: 6/8/2021 11:20:00 PM
Modified: 6/8/2021 11:20:02 PM

With roughly 3,100 Vermonters to go before the state reaches its vaccination goal, officials have a simple message: Get vaccinated, get vaccinated, get vaccinated, get vaccinated.

For the third week in a row, Vermont is closer than ever, but not quite at the point of a full reopening, which Gov. Phil Scott has said will take place when 80% of eligible Vermonters are vaccinated.

Officials reported at a news conference Tuesday that 79.4% of eligible residents have started the vaccination process, leaving 3,139 people to go before Vermont plans to drop nearly all its COVID-19 restrictions.

“The vaccine is the reason we’ve gotten to where we are today,” said Dr. Mark Levine, the state health commissioner. “It’s how we can live once again with fewer restrictions than in the pandemic.”

Asked if the metric was “arbitrary,” given how close the state has come to 80%, Scott said it was “a goal we can all be proud of” and a milestone that would mark Vermont as the safest state in the nation.

“We were going to open up restrictions by the Fourth of July regardless,” he said. “But we all need goals in life, and this was one that I thought was attainable. ... And if we reach it, which I think we will, we’ll be more than two weeks ahead of schedule.”

Vaccinations lagged in the first days of June, reaching a recent one-day low of 348 Vermonters receiving their first shot on June 3, said Mike Pieciak, commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation. But the rate has since rebounded to an average of 1,200 per day, he said.

Despite not yet reaching Scott’s goal, Vermont reported falling case averages this week once again. Cases are down 17% over the past week and 94% since a recent peak on April 1.

Severe complications from the disease are also falling: Vermont has reported only one death so far this month, with an expected total for June below five. Hospitalizations have mostly stayed under five people in the past week.

Other states in the region have also reported falling case counts, including some that have already reopened — New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island among them — Pieciak said.

On the other hand, southern states are experiencing low vaccination rates. Levine said experts are concerned about what that means for a summer surge.

“They’re calling these states ‘sitting ducks,’ ” Levine said. “I don’t really wish an outcome like that on anyone. But I, too, am concerned, because the large numbers of unvaccinated people in those states will transmit the virus to one another.”

He encouraged parents with children over 12 to look into getting them vaccinated if they haven’t yet. Department of Health data shows 52% of children 12 to 15 years old have received at least one dose, the lowest of any age group.

Scott repeated Levine’s call. “Please know the country’s top doctors are confident in the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine for our youth,” the governor said.

Vaccines are available via appointment, at pharmacies, and at walk-in clinics — all listed on the state’s website.

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