Health care workers receiving the COVID-19 vaccine
Updated at 1:31 p.m.
Gov. Phil Scott on Friday released a full timeline for when every Vermonter can expect to be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine, saying the state plans to open sign-ups for new age groups each of the next four weeks until the entire adult population is eligible by April 19 — and immunized by July 1.
Vermonters ages 60 and older can start making appointments on Thursday, March 25, Scott said. The next age-band — 50-and-older — can then sign up Monday, March 29. The state will then open up new bands each of the next three weeks, on the following schedule.
April 5: age 40 and older
April 12: age 30 and-older
April 19: age 16 and older
People should expect it to take roughly two months from the date of their registration for them to be fully vaccinated, a timeframe that includes a two-week waiting period after the final dose, officials said. That puts the youngest age group around mid-June.
"To put a finer point on it," Scott said, "for high school seniors, this timeline means that in June ... you should be able to have a more traditional graduation and celebrate what you've accomplished with your friends and family."
Courtesy of Gov. Phil Scott's office
Vermont's vaccine schedule
Scott on Friday also reaffirmed his desire to have the state's economy largely reopened around the Fourth of July, and said he will provide a full plan for "emerging from the pandemic" within the next few weeks.
Taking a step in that direction, Scott announced that bars and social clubs can reopen March 24 under the same capacity limits and distancing requirements as restaurants, though he said municipalities can enact stricter rules.
Whether the state can meet these goals will depend on vaccine supply and the trajectory of the virus, officials said. But the announcements, which come a year to the day since Vermont's first confirmed COVID-19 deaths, still offer the clearest picture yet of when the state expects to regain a sense of normalcy.
"Normal to me is not a small cookout in your backyard with a couple of friends," Scott said. "It's when things will feel similar to pre-pandemic."
The state estimates that it has about 488,600 people over the age of 16, with those between the ages of 16 and 29 representing the largest age-band. So far, 30 percent of that population — 166,000 — has received at least one dose. A little over half of those people have been fully vaccinated.
The state has the necessary infrastructure to provide about 35,000 vaccine doses per week, according to Human Services Secretary Mike Smith.
While Friday’s news was largely encouraging, officials stressed that Vermont cannot claim victory yet, particularly in light of news this week that another, more contagious, variant of the virus has been found here.
On Thursday, the Vermont Health Department announced that it had confirmed three cases of the B.1.429 variant, a strain first identified in California that is about 20 percent more contagious. Another variant found in Vermont earlier this month — B.1.1.7, which originated in the United Kingdom — is believed to be up to 50 percent more contagious.
The strains must be confirmed using genetic sequencing, and with the health department sending out only 20 samples per week, it’s likely that the variants are more prevalent than is known.
With this in mind, Health Commissioner Mark Levine encouraged people to follow best health practices and get tested if they do not feel well.
“This is the only way for us to stay ahead in the race,” he said