Vaccine begins making its way to the public

More than 21,000 Vermonters 75 and older sign up for protection from coronavirus on first day

The next big push to get Vermonters vaccinated against COVID-19 began this week, with those age 75 and older now getting vaccines.

Vermonters age 75 and older began booking appointments for their COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 25. According to the Health Department, more than 21,100 appointments were scheduled for the coming weeks during the first day of sign-ups - a rate that state health officials called greatly encouraging.

The vaccinations will take place at Health Department clinics and other locations around the state beginning Jan. 27, with 54 sites in 39 towns.

In southern Vermont, clinics will be held in Bennington, Brattleboro, Manchester, Rockingham, Springfield, and Weston. Registrants will choose a location when making their appointment. There are no walk-ins. Appointments are required to receive a vaccine.

Online sign-ups began Monday morning at More information about the vaccines and the process of getting them can also be found there.

Making an appointment online is the fastest way to get signed up, the Health Department said.

Eligible Vermonters will be asked to create an account on the website, then log in to make their appointment. Family members and friends are strongly encouraged to assist their loved ones with online registration, as needed.

A call center is open for anyone who is unable to register online or who needs to speak with someone in a language other than English. These Vermonters can call 855-722-7878. Going forward, the call center hours will be Monday to Friday, 8:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

People who receive their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine will get either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Like when receiving other immunizations, most people will be asked to wait for 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine to watch for reactions. They will also be given information about side effects and how to report any adverse reactions.

After getting their first dose, clinic staff will help people make an appointment to receive their second dose. Getting fully vaccinated with both doses provides the best protection against the virus.

The Health Department says that the COVID-19 vaccine supply from the federal government is still limited, which is why vaccinations are being rolled out in phases, beginning with those who are most likely to experience severe illness and death from COVID-19.

According to the Health Department, states are receiving roughly the same number of doses from the federal government, on a percentage of population basis.

Vermont is a national leader in the rate of vaccinations distributed and administered.

The Health Department says Vermont is the first state in the country to have a higher percentage of its population vaccinated (6 percent) than the percentage of residents who have been infected with the virus (4 percent).

As of Jan. 23, 51,700 doses of vaccine have been administered in Vermont, with 31,800 getting at least one dose and 9,942 people receiving both doses.

According to Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine, between 70 and 92 percent of health workers in Vermont so far have received the vaccine, as have more than 92 percent of the residents of long-term care facilities.

The Health Department says it is important for Vermonters to know that other states that have broader eligibility strategies do not have a larger supply of vaccine. This has caused frustration, confusion, shortages, and delays in these states.

Vermont's age-banding approach is intended to avoid these complications, they said, while protecting those most at risk of severe illness or death.

At a Jan. 22 news briefing, Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said that there will be guaranteed available slots for every eligible Vermonter over age 75 to get an appointment in the next five weeks.

He urged people not to cancel or miss their appointments because their dose might go to waste.

After the 75-plus group, the next age group will be those 70 and older, followed by those 65 and older, and then those with chronic medical conditions.

Gov. Phil Scott said on Jan. 22 that if the state gets more vaccine, the number of people able to get vaccinated will increase. However, much is dependent on the federal government's ability to distribute the needed doses in the coming months.

Scott said the state's priority remains getting the vaccine to older Vermonters, something he called “a moral obligation.”

“The data is clear. The older you are, the higher your overall risk of hospitalization and death,” he said.

Scott added that vaccinating Vermonters over age 65 “will get us out of the state of emergency faster as well.”

“By vaccinating those who are most susceptible to severe illness and death, we hope to reduce our hospitalization rate and the number of deaths we're experiencing more quickly,” the governor said.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates