MONTPELIER — In a press conference on Town Meeting Day, the Scott administration announced that beginning next week, vaccines will be available to teachers, childcare providers and school staff, as well as Vermonters with high-risk conditions.
“There is, now, clear light at the end of the pandemic tunnel,” said Mike Smith, secretary of the Agency of Human Services, on Tuesday.
Smith said the new vaccine does not have special storage requirements and thus will be a greater asset to reach more people in need.
“We know getting our kids back in school for in-person instruction five days a week is essential,” Gov. Phil Scott said. “Beginning next week, we will begin vaccination of school staff as well as childcare and early education providers. This includes giving them the option of the single dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine, or the two-dose vaccines through our partnership with Walgreens.”
Clinics at the respective school districts will begin offering the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines to teachers, school staff and childcare providers beginning Monday, March 8.
EMS, Department of Health staff, Vermont National Guard and school nurses will be onsite at clinics, at districts or in small schools to administer the vaccine. Smith said details will be available Friday on how to schedule vaccines for these staff members who want to make an appointment at the school-designated vaccine sites.
On “or around” March 8, Smith said the state is expanding the definition of first responders to include police staff, 9-1-1 call takers and staff at correctional facilities. Staff at correctional facilities may receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine onsite, or receive the double-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at Walgreens.
High-risk Vermonters to be eligible
Beginning March 8, registration for Phase 5 will be opened for Vermonters aged 16-64 with high-risk conditions, and will be divided into two groups: Phase 5A (55 and up) and Phase 5B (16-54). Registration for Phase 5A will begin on March 8 at 8:15 am, and Phase 5B registration will begin March 15 at 8:15 am.
“By March 15, all those over the age of 16 who are the highest risk of severe illness and death, whether due to age or a health condition, will be able to sign up for their vaccine,” Scott said.
Levine said documentation from a health care provider would be required to receive a vaccine per the high-risk determination.
Vermont National Guard getting involved
“Starting tomorrow, we will use the Vermont National Guard to help us get Vermonters vaccinated as quickly as possible,” Smith said.
Vaccines will be administered in South Burlington at the Double Tree hotel, and next week the guard will also be administering vaccines in Barre and Springfield, Smith said.
All registrations, regardless of the site of the vaccination are registered through the same site online: healthvermont.gov/myvaccine.
On March 15, Smith said the plan was to activate a larger contingent of the Vermont National Guard to help with vaccinations as vaccine supply increases and shipments come in, and Walmart is beginning vaccinations this week at each of its six stores statewide.
Vermonters age 65-plus eligible
Registration for those 65 and older opened on Monday, and Smith said over 18,000 people registered in the first day and he has high hopes that the entire group will be vaccinated fairly quickly.
As of 9 a.m., Smith said 20,200 people had signed up for their appointment, and 42,000 people make up the newly-eligible group.
Smith said 106,300 people have been vaccinated to-date, 47,900 have received their first dose and 48,400 received first and last dose of vaccine against COVID-19.
Smith estimated over 20,000 first doses of vaccine will be received in Vermont this week, and by March 15 state capacity will increase to administer 25,000 first doses of the vaccine per week.
By the end of the month, Smith said capacity will increase further to administer 35,000 first doses per week.