More than 13K Vermonters sign up for vaccines in 1st hours

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FILE – In this Jan. 12, 2021, file photo, Ken Towns receives a first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from UC Davis Health in Sacramento, Calif. Uncertainty over the pace of federal COVID-19 vaccine allotments triggered anger and confusion Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in some states where officials worried that expected shipments would not be forthcoming. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, Pool, File)

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — More than 13,000 Vermonters who are 75 or older have signed up to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the first few hours the Vermont Health Department’s signup site was open Monday.

The vaccinations will begin on Wednesday for the group, who are part of phase 1B of the program in Vermont. The state estimates there are about 49,000 people in the age group and it will take about six weeks to vaccinate them all.

That group will be followed by residents 70 and older. The state expects to start vaccinating those aged 65 and older by the end of March or beginning of April. After that people aged 18-65 with medical conditions that put them at risk for severe illness from COVID-19 will be eligible for shots.

A call center with roughly 400 receptionists was available to take phone reservations starting at noon on Monday for people who are unable to sign up online or who need to speak to someone in another language.

Officials say demand is heavy and wait times for the calls could be long. After the first day, the call center will be open from 8:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Relatives and friends of people who are eligible for a vaccine are urged to offer to help register them online.

The state is planning to have 54 vaccine sites in 39 towns across Vermont.

Officials are urging people to register for an appointment at a site close to their homes.

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