Vermont will debut vaccine registration for those 75 and over on Monday

Published: 1/23/2021 12:31:25 AM
Modified: 1/23/2021 12:31:22 AM

MONTPELIER — The state will debut a website and phone number Monday morning for Vermonters age 75 and older to register for COVID-19 vaccine appointments starting Wednesday.

There will be guaranteed available slots for every eligible Vermonter to get an appointment in the next five weeks, Mike Smith, head of the Agency of Human Services, said Friday at a news conference.

“We expect some bottlenecks in the first few days of registration, but you’ll be able to get an appointment during the weeks we are scheduled,” he said.

The URL for the website, healthvermont.gov/MyVaccine, went online Friday evening, but Vermonters will not be able to register until Monday. A time has not been set.

The slots are based on the best projections of the state’s ability to administer the vaccine, but Gov. Phil Scott said Vermont is still dependent on the federal government to distribute enough doses to make it work. New York was recently forced to cancel some clinics because of federal government supply issues.

Scott said he hopes for more predictability in the vaccine process, now that Joe Biden is president.

Vermont is offering 54 vaccination sites in 39 towns, and Smith said the state has tried to distribute the appointments evenly throughout the state. He asked Vermonters to register, preferably online, for the nearest site available to them.

Smith explained the signup process for people who qualify. Only people 75 and older can register on Monday. They will be asked to provide their name, address, phone number and email if they have one. They will be asked a few health questions and asked to provide their insurance information, although they can still be vaccinated if they do not have insurance.

Vermonters will have to attest that they fit in that age group and have Vermont residency. When they arrive at the appointment, they will be asked to sign a waiver. After they receive the vaccine, they will be asked to stay for 15 minutes to ensure they don’t have a reaction, and to make their next appointment for the second dose of the vaccine.

The state is also working on the logistics of providing the vaccine to homebound Vermonters through a partnership with emergency medical services and home health agencies, Smith said, with more information to come next week.

Scott repeated the state’s justification for prioritizing older Vermonters, rather than following other states’ decisions to vaccinate a larger part of the population: “The data is clear. The older you are, the higher your overall risk of hospitalization and death.”

He added, “That strategy will get us out of the state of emergency faster as well. By vaccinating those who are most susceptible to severe illness and death, we hope to reduce our hospitalization rate and the number of deaths we’re experiencing more quickly.”

Vaccine takeup and case update

As of Friday, 7.1% of Vermonters age 16 and older had been vaccinated, according to Department of Health data. That includes nearly 9,000 people who have received both doses and 31,400 people who have received only the first dose.

Health Commissioner Mark Levine said early data on Phase 1A, the group currently being vaccinated, showed that most people have chosen to get the vaccine, despite concerns that an unknown number of people might be reluctant to be vaccinated.

Data from health care centers and hospitals shows that between 70% and 92% of health care workers who qualify to get the vaccine at this stage have chosen to get it, with rates varying depending on the site.

Preliminary data from long-term care facilities suggests that 92% of their residents chose to get vaccinated, while only about 60% of long-term care staff members chose to get vaccinated, Levine said.

Levine said a number of factors likely affect the long-term care workers decision, “including the high percentage of ethnically diverse and often disenfranchised groups working in such facilities, who have often suffered historical injustice, and may not have high trust in government programs.”

Vermont has said it will encourage people of color to participate in the next phase of vaccinations, offering educational efforts and scheduling clinics with equitable distribution in mind.

Despite vaccination efforts, deaths are still occuring in long-term care. Half of the six deaths in the past few days have been among residents of long-term care facilities, Levine said. The latest deaths bring the state’s pandemic total to 169.

The state reported 174 new cases of the virus Friday, an increase from the roughly 100 to 150 cases per day in the past three days. Officials said Tuesday that cases were going down after a peak around Jan. 6.

Leadership quarantine

State officials conducted the first fully virtual coronavirus press conference Friday because several top officials, including Scott and Levine, were forced into quarantine because of virus exposure during the press conference last Tuesday.

Levine said his quarantine process was the same as the quarantine he’s been asking Vermonters to follow since the start of the pandemic.

“I had the opportunity to have a conversation with a very professional and patient member of my contact tracing team,” he said. “During this conversation, I received great and practical guidance and responses to all of my questions.”

He had to “rethink his pattern of life,” he said, including wearing a mask around the home to protect his wife.

None of the officials has tested positive or shown any symptoms of the virus. They will be able to come out of quarantine if they test negative and show no symptoms on day seven after exposure, which is next Tuesday.

Scott said his quarantine has not made him reconsider his decision to wait to receive the vaccine.

“I’m anxious to get a vaccine just like everyone else, but I’m not any more important than anyone else,” he said.




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