Vermont concerned with rising cases in low-vaccination areas

Vermont News

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WFFF) — Vermont officials say the effort to get booster shots in the arms of eligible Vermonters is off to a strong start, but Gov. Phil Scott and his administration are also focused on bringing down high case counts in areas of the state where vaccination rates have stalled.

As of Tuesday, Orleans County had the highest positivity rate in Vermont: 1,531 cases per 100,000. “That’s almost three times the statewide average,” said Human Services Secretary Mike Smith.

Smith and Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine have been in touch with Orleans County legislators as they attempt to bring the county’s vaccination rate up, which currently sits 8 percent below the statewide average.

Smith said there’s likely going to be more “barnstorming” events, which brought a series of clinics to hard-to-reach areas earlier this year. “This is not intended as finger-pointing at any one part of our state,” Smith said. “Rather it is a reflection of the data we see roll in nightly.”

“I am 100% unconvinced that people in Orleans County who have chosen not to be vaccinated will never be vaccinated,” Dr. Levine said.

Meanwhile, in the early days of Vermont’s booster expansion, over 3,400 people have made appointments on the state website, while many will likely opt to get their booster through a pharmacy or primary care provider. Vermont currently ranks second in the nation when it comes to people 65 and older getting their boosters.

“They’re the ones we’re most concerned about,” Dr. Levine said. “We’re far less concerned about a 25-year-old who is completely healthy and maybe ready for their booster. We’re much more worried about the people who are at much higher risk and vulnerable.”

And while some Vermont counties haven’t been able to cut down on cases, the state as a whole is starting to see a downturn. Case counts dropped 15% this past week, but in that same span, hospitalization rates among the unvaccinated continued to rise.

Scott again responded to renewed calls for a State of Emergency, this time from nine state lawmakers and half a dozen medical professionals who held a press conference at the State House on Monday. “There’s a time and a place for a State of Emergency, and I can assure you this isn’t it,” Governor Scott said. “We’ll get through this. I believe we’re all working to overcome this, and I’m hopeful with the numbers we’re seeing.”

Scott said he’s hoping to get his booster this week, once he decides which one to get following the CDC’s approval of mix-and-match boosters. “The good news is, all three are effective so you can’t go wrong, but I’m always looking to get the edge any way I can so I’m going to do my homework and determine what’s best for me,” Scott said.

Before Tuesday’s news conference, Scott and other administration officials invited cameras in as they received their flu shots. They said that it’s safe to get a flu shot the same day you receive a COVID vaccine or booster.

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