Health care workers receiving the COVID-19 vaccine
Vermonters 75 and older are next in line to be vaccinated for COVID-19 and will be able to register for an appointment starting on Monday.
The state is nearing the end of its vaccination process for frontline health care workers and long-term care facility residents and staff. As of Thursday, 40,318 people had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 8,949 people had received the second and final dose.
Next in line are Vermonters aged 75 and up — a group that includes nearly 50,000 people — then those 70 and up, then 65 and up, followed by Vermonters with conditions that put them at high risk for complications from COVID-19.
That plan runs counter to recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state's vaccine advisory panel, which recommended vaccinating essential workers, including teachers, in the next priority group. State officials have pointed to the high rate of death among older Vermonters. As of January 21, 161 of the 169 Vermonters who died with COVID-19 were over the age of 60.
"The older you are, the more likely you are to die if you get COVID. With our limited supply of vaccines ... we have a moral obligation to prioritize saving lives," Gov. Phil Scott said at press conference on Friday.
"If we were getting more doses, we'd be able to vaccinate a broader group. But we have to deal with reality," he said.
The event was held via video as the governor and other officials are in quarantine after a state contractor working at two recent press conferences tested positive for COVID-19. Scott tested negative for the virus on Wednesday and will be tested again this coming Tuesday — seven days after his most recent potential exposure to the infected person.
For the next phase of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, the state will set up 54 inoculation sites in 39 towns. Those eligible to get the vaccine can sign up for an appointment either through the state's website or by telephone. Officials said they will release that phone number on Monday morning; the call center will have approximately 400 staffers.
Officials said they anticipate some bottlenecks at the beginning, but they are confident everyone eligible for a vaccination will be able to get an appointment.
"I want everyone to have realistic expectations — your appointment may not be immediate or on the day you would prefer," Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said.
But he said everyone 75 and older would be able to get an appointment within the five-week period the state has designated for that population group.
Those hoping to book an appointment shouldn't head to the state's website at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Smith warned — the booking system will go live sometime that morning, and he said officials plan to send out a press release announcing that launch.
People registering for an appointment will need to verify their age and their Vermont residency. And couples who are both 75 or older will need to register for separate appointments.
State officials said they're hopeful that the Biden administration will be able to increase the supply of vaccines being delivered to the state, and that they can speed up the rate at which they're able to offer vaccines to other portions of the population.
"We are poised to ramp this up if we are fortunate enough to have more vaccine," Smith said.