State officials announced on Jan. 15 that the next phase of COVID-19 vaccine distribution, for Vermonters 75 and older, will begin on Monday, Jan. 25.
Agency of Human Services Commissioner Mike Smith said online registration for the estimated 50,000 Vermonters in that age group will begin on that date, with clinics scheduled to begin on Wednesday, Jan. 27.
Clinics will be run by the state as well as by pharmacies and hospitals. Details on how to register will be made available later this week.
Smith said Vermonters should not call or email their local health clinics or hospitals to seek an appointment.
“By waiting until we have more details to share, you'll be helping our staff focus on the difficult and complex work to prepare for this next phase,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine.
Smith said that the second dose of the vaccine will be scheduled for the same time and in the same place as the first one is administered. He stressed the importance of keeping the appointments so vaccines will not be wasted.
Smith and Levine both said the 75-and-older phase should take about six weeks, although it might happen faster if the state gets more vaccine. Right now, Smith said, Vermont is getting around 8,800 doses per week, but the federal government's reserve stockpile of vaccines is nearly depleted.
“What we really need is greater quantities of vaccine in the weeks ahead so that we can speed up our efforts,” Smith said. “But we want to set appropriate expectations and communicate clearly where we are and what we expect, to avoid the frustration and disappointment we've seen in other states.”
Levine said that “now that Vermonters know more about our plans, we are anticipating plenty of interest and questions. This will be good news for many people, but I again need to ask for your patience and help as we finalize our systems so they can be rolled out as smoothly as possible.”
He also emphasized the state's commitment to addressing the factors, historical and current, that contribute to health disparities, particularly among Vermonters of color.
“There is no question that members of certain demographic groups have been disproportionately overrepresented in Vermont's COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death rates,” he said. “This means we must prioritize these groups to reach our goal of preserving life and protecting those most at risk.”
“We have been working with community leaders, we have listened, and we are committed to continuing to right past wrongs,” he continued. “We will ensure that this community gets the support they need, in the language they need, [and] in the locations they need, to make informed choices and to get scheduled for vaccinations.”
The next group to get the vaccine will be those 70 and older, then those age 65 and older.
At that point, people ages 18 to 65 who have chronic conditions will then join the line. Levine said those conditions include cancer, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a variety of heart conditions, weakened immune systems, severe obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and sickle cell disease. Those with Down syndrome and who are pregnant are also eligible.
Smith said that, as of Jan. 15, 35,000 doses have been administered, and the state expects that everyone in the first group to be vaccinated - health care providers, emergency medical services personnel, and long-term care facility residents - will have been vaccinated by the end of this month.