MONTPELIER — Vermont officials say they are on standby and ready to implement vaccinations for residents age 12 to 15 pending further federal approval.
The Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use approval of the Pfizer vaccine for youths in that age bracket Monday. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine on Tuesday said the national Advisory Committee for Immunization would meet Wednesday and make a recommendation to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which would then pass along its recommendation to states.
“We’ll be ready to offer vaccine to this age group almost immediately,” Levine said.
Here are three key takeaways from Tuesday’s press conference updating the public on the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic:
1. Vaccines for those age 12 to 15
Levine said the FDA’s decision followed clinical trials with 2,260 children in that age group, in which the Pfizer vaccine was shown to have 100% efficacy with similar side effects to those in older age groups.
Mike Smith, secretary of the Agency of Human Services, said once the vaccine is approved by the CDC for that age group, registration will open immediately, or at 8:15 a.m. the following morning if the decision comes after business hours. Levine urged parents to create accounts on the Health Department website ahead of time for any of their children in that age group so that appointments can be scheduled as soon as possible.
Smith said vaccination sites at roughly 40 public schools will launch on May 17 as part of the effort, and the state will be requesting an additional 4,480 Pfizer doses through the federal vaccine reallocation program. And with reports nationally of some states requesting fewer doses than their federal allocation allows, Gov. Phil Scott indicated this could play to Vermont’s advantage in terms of requesting more doses.
Smith said a form will be available for parents to sign off on vaccination at school-based sites.
“I would encourage people to use the registration process” online, Smith said.
There are roughly 27,000 Vermonters in the 12- to 15-year-old age group. Levine indicated Vermonters in that age group with a greater susceptibility to severe COVID-19 symptoms would be prioritized.
2. EMS Week vaccine clinics
Smith announced Tuesday that from May 21 to May 23, 30 fire and EMS departments across the state would host open vaccine clinics for EMS Week, which runs from May 16 to May 22.
“The best way you can recognize the hard work they do every year is to get vaccinated,” Smith said, adding that further details will be announced later this week.
The clinics will be for walk-in patients only.
The initiative is part of a push to increase vaccine access across the state. Smith said worksite and restaurant vaccination visits for employees will be scheduled in the coming weeks, and the state is working with Burlington to hold vaccine clinics on Church Street and North Beach.
The push comes after state officials reported last week that Vermonters age 30 and under weren’t being vaccinated at the rate of other age groups. Michael Pieciak, commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation, reported that Vermonters in that age group have since stepped up, contributing to Vermont’s status as a leading state nationally in vaccinations.
Pieciak also announced that Vermont has met the minimum vaccination percentage ahead of the June 1 deadline for the next step in its reopening plan, with 61.9% of the population having received at least one dose. As a result, Scott said the state is considering accelerating both of the remaining steps in its reopening plan, and will make any further announcements later in the week.
“Vermonters should be proud of what we’ve accomplished, but we should understand there’s a lot more work to do,” he said.
3. Surveillance testing for summer camps
Chief Prevention Officer Monica Hutt announced that a surveillance testing program is being rolled out for youths in summer day camps this year. She said it will be free and voluntary.
Eligible camps will be able to register for the program on the CIC Health website. Hutt said more information would be made to eligible camps and programs directly at a later date.
The program will be built in parallel to a student surveillance testing program announced last week by Education Secretary Dan French.