MONTPELIER — Vermont’s vaccine supply is set for another uptick this week, according to Gov. Phil Scott.
The governor announced after a call with the White House and other governors Tuesday that the state would see a one-time, roughly 5,000-dose spike this week compared to last week.
“I myself am looking forward to signing up,” Scott said of being vaccinated. “I believe every Vermonter should sign up when eligible.”
To that end, Secretary of the Agency of Human Services Mike Smith announced the state had reached a vaccination milestone, with one in three Vermonters having received at least one dose of the vaccine as of Tuesday.
“We are one step closer to ending this pandemic,” he said.
While vaccinations continue to speed up, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine warned younger Vermonters in particular to stay vigilant to not only avoid spreading COVID-19, but avoid post-acute COVID syndrome (PACS).
Here are three key takeaways from Tuesday’s press conference updating the public on the state’s response to the pandemic:
1. Vaccine allocation to see one-time uptick
Scott said Pfizer would distribute an additional 1 million doses nationwide, Johnson & Johnson would distribute another 1.6 million, and the federal pharmacy program would see increases of 1 million and 1.5 million from each, respectively.
Scott said as vaccinations ramp up, the administration will release a detailed plan for a return to normalcy. But in the meantime, Vermonters should remain vigilant.
“This virus is not going away and likely will be with us for a while, so we should be prepared for that,” Scott said.
In addition to vaccines, Scott said National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci indicated AstraZeneca would be applying for emergency use designation for its vaccine in the United States. Scott also reported, based on his call with the White House, that high school students may be eligible for vaccination this fall, with young children eligible in the early part of next year.
2. One-third of state population has received a dose
In addition to reporting one-third of the population has received a dose, Smith said that by the end of the week, it is expected that one-fifth of the population will have received two doses — or one of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — and be considered fully vaccinated.
On Thursday, the state will return to vaccinating by age group, with Vermonters age 60 and older becoming eligible. Smith said the state is currently administering an average of 5,500 doses per day, and will be reactivating a larger contingent of the Vermont National Guard to assist with vaccinations on April 5.
A clinic scheduled for Thursday in St. Albans had 103 openings as of Tuesday, Smith said.
The milestone was announced as national data shows Vermont as a leading state in vaccine uptake. According to Michael Pieciak, commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation, Vermont has the second highest vaccine uptake in the country among its vulnerable population.
Pieciak said daily case counts have ranged from 100 to 120 for the last five weeks, although Vermonters 70 and older have seen a 75% decrease in cases.
“Even though our cases have remained relatively high recently, the cases among our most-vaccinated continues to be low and maintains a downward trend,” he said.
3. Levine warns of post-COVID syndrome
With warm weather hitting the state this week, Levine encouraged Vermonters to get outside “but please do so safely.”
“We’re still in a very delicate time where the virus and its variants can and will take advantage of us if we let our guard down,” Levine said.
Levine said much of the focus has been on protecting older, more vulnerable Vermonters, but with cases and hospitalizations among the older population trending down as more people are vaccinated, Levine asked that Vermonters age 40 and below continue to follow public health guidance.
With PACS causing symptoms such as chronic fatigue, shortness of breath, exercise intolerance, brain fog and memory loss three to four months after recovering from COVID-19, Levine said he has heard it called the “largest mass-disabling event in some time.”
“I don’t want anyone to risk developing this, to have your lives hindered by what is starting to become an avoidable virus,” he said.