As other states deal with Delta variant, Vermont leaders remain confident


MONTPELIER – Amid nationwide concerns about the Delta variant of COVID-19, the focus was back on Vermont’s ongoing vaccination effort at Governor Phil Scott’s briefing on Tuesday.

It was a familiar call to action as Governor Scott urged unvaccinated Vermonters to get their shots, but the audience for that message is getting smaller by the day.

Once again, it was Vermont’s younger age groups being asked to step up. As of Tuesday morning, 62 percent of those age 22 to 29 had gotten their first dose, followed by 50 percent of those 18 to 21, 71 percent of ages 16 and 17, and 63 percent of those in the 12 to 15 age group.

In that youngest age group, parents and guardians are being asked to begin the process for their kids ahead of the upcoming school year.

“With school just five weeks away, now is the time for children who haven’t been vaccinated to do so in order to be fully protected by the start of the school year,” Governor Scott said. “Whether you haven’t gotten around to it yet or you’re the parent of a child getting ready for the start of classes, it’s never too late to protect yourself and your loved ones.”

There’s roughly 90,000 eligible Vermonters who haven’t started the vaccination process. Trying to build upon the state’s 84 percent vaccination rate looks a lot different than the frantic pace seen earlier this year. Mass clinics have long been replaced by primary care visits and a lengthy list of walk-in opportunities everywhere from the Hardwick Farmers’ Market to Johnson Skate Park.

The returns might not be as significant, but State Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said it’s been a solid strategy. Last week, over 2,000 people got their first dose.

“We’ve brought the vaccine to places where I don’t think other states had even dreamed you could do that,” Dr. Levine said. “And now we’re finding some of them are mirroring what we’ve done here.”

As other states grapple with the spreading Delta variant, it’s Vermont’s vaccination rate that has state leaders preaching calmness from the podium.

“There’s not a reason for us to take an alarmist kind of stance and make any major changes,” Dr. Levine said. “We continue to see slightly higher numbers of cases, but importantly, our hospitalizations and deaths remain very low.”

“We’ve done a great job in Vermont, and we should take advantage of that in a lot of respects,” Governor Scott added.

Still, the rapid spread of the Delta variant in other states coupled with an slight uptick in Vermont has prompted a reminder that COVID-19 testing is still going strong at 23 locations across the state.

“If you’re traveling, especially to one of the spots that are seeing a spike in cases, you may wish to take the extra precaution and get tested upon your return to the state,” said Human Services Secretary Mike Smith. “This is especially important if you are unvaccinated.”

11 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Vermont on Tuesday. To learn more about walk-in vaccinations and other opportunities, visit the Vermont Department of Health website.

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