MONTPELIER – As the nation inches closer to the eventual distribution of reliable COVID-19 vaccines, there’s a key question emerging – how many people will need to get them in order to return to anything resembling ‘business as usual’?
Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said the State should be aiming for roughly 70 percent of its population to get vaccinated.
“We know that there are not going to be large numbers of Vermonters who have already acquired some immunity on their own by coming in contact with the virus, so the vaccine will have to add to that number on a parallel pathway,” Dr. Levine said.
According to the World Health Organization, countries will need to have at least 60 percent of the population vaccinated to achieve any kind of herd immunity against the virus.
Governor Phil Scott was asked whether vaccinations should be made mandatory on some level, and suggested that won’t be the case. He added that it’s far too early in the process to make judgement calls on the details of vaccine distribution.
“It’s going to be important for us, once we determine there are some safe vaccines out there, that we ask Vermonters to do this voluntarily,” Gov. Scott said. “If we don’t get above a certain percentage, it’s just not effective to counteract this virus.”
During a Friday media briefing, World Health Organization officials said that in some situations, it may be more useful to target certain groups for vaccination instead of immunizing the entire population.
“We’ve seen superspreading events, certain contexts and certain groups who mix and the disease can explode,” said Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO Health Emergencies Program Executive Director. “So it may be that it will take some very clever vaccination strategies to highly target people in our society who are more likely to carry and transmit and super spread with this virus.”
In the coming months as Vermonters begin to get vaccinated and their lives return to relative normalcy, some are wondering if there will be a convenient method of proving they’ve been vaccinated.
Dr. Levine was asked about the possibility of State-issued cards to certify an individual has been vaccinated.
“If you were going to have a policy of giving someone a card, you’d have to know what exactly that card meant, because just showing a date of vaccination might not be efficient,” Dr. Levine said. “If you get the vaccine, we’d probably want to prove that you have antibodies that your body has now generated that could fight off the virus if you got exposed to it.”
This week, Vermont reached 4,000 documented cases of COVID-19. State health officials are concerned with outbreaks at senior care facilities, including Elderwood Nursing Home in Burlington, where roughly 14 residents have tested positive.