MONTPELIER, Vt. (WFFF) — With everyone over the age of 16 now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Vermont, state officials are working to respond to an overwhelming demand for appointments.
As of Tuesday morning, over 47,000 Vermonters between the ages of 16 and 29 had registered, which accounts for roughly 40 percent of that age group. “Don’t be discouraged if you can’t find an appointment this week or next,” said Gov. Phil Scott. “We’re still adding appointments, as are the pharmacies, so you should lock one in now if you can.”
Even though there may be some frustration among those who had to schedule as far out as mid-May, state officials said it’s not necessarily a bad problem to have.
“Other states are seeing their appointments go unfilled, they’re seeing 50% of pharmacies with availability,” said Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak. “Even though it’s frustrating in the short-term, people should just understand it’s a really good thing, and it’s going to serve us well in the long-term because Vermonters are stepping up to get that limited supply we still have.”
Following his weekly conference call with the Biden Administration, Governor Scott said Vermont won’t be receiving anything more than the usual influx of Pfizer and Moderna doses this week, but local pharmacies will be getting an additional 8,000 doses.
With just under 54 percent of Vermonters over the age of 16 having received at least their first dose, the conversation is beginning to shift to the tall task of returning to business as usual in Vermont.
Governor Scott’s Vermont Forward Plan has three major milestones to look out for May 1, June 1, and July 4. Each step boosts maximum capacity for indoor and outdoor events and gives businesses new universal guidelines.
On July 4, masking will become a recommendation rather than a mandate, but Governor Scott said that could change sooner than expected for outdoor events. “It’s not now, but it may be soon,” Scott said. He also reflected on whether the Johnson & Johnson pause will impact the Vermont Forward Plan timeline. “We think we’ll be able to get by, but admittedly, it’s going to be a bit of a struggle,” Scott said.
An update from federal officials on whether the pause will be lifted or extended is expected sometime Friday, and Scott was hopeful that positive news is on the way.
Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine commented on another vaccine-related development: Pfizer recently requested to expand use of its COVID-19 vaccine to adolescents ages 12 to 15. “If approved, we believe the current timeline might allow for us to vaccinate this age group sometime in May or June,” Levine said.
Vermont also notched an impressive milestone on Tuesday. The state has now administered 1.5 million COVID-19 tests.
“It is really Vermonters who have helped us reach this point — your willingness to get tested, and your understanding of why it is so important, have been essential to slowing the spread of the virus,” Dr. Levine said. “Now, we are finally in a place where testing is highly accessible. It’s still free, and easy to do.”