Vermont health officials say strong vaccination rate is keeping Delta variant at bay

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MONTPELIER – Vermont is still the most vaccinated state in the nation, but the spread of the Delta variant in some parts of the country had state officials answering questions on whether Vermonters should be worried.

The variant now accounts for roughly half of recent COVID-19 cases across the United States. Governor Phil Scott and other administration officials said Vermont’s 82.4 percent vaccination rate has stopped the variant from taking hold here.

Governor Scott was also asked Tuesday if he believes there is anything from Vermont’s vaccine playbook that could help states that haven’t had as much success.

“We do offer advice, but I’m not sure everything we do here in Vermont would necessarily work in another state,” Governor Scott said. “…You’ve got to meet where they are, and you’ve got to tell it to them straight, and hopefully they’ll follow through.”

Governor Scott said Vermonters’ trust in the vaccine and the state’s refusal to make it a point of political tension is something that’s missing elsewhere in the country, adding that’s not necessarily the fault of state leaders.

“It started, I think, with the previous administration,” Governor Scott said. “The hesitancy of communicating that this is a real issue, whether it was anti-masking, whether it was that COVID was going to be over in a couple of months, it just started then and went downhill from there.”

In some states, the Delta variant is causing more than 80 percent of new COVID-19 infections, and this comes amid concerns the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have varying degrees of effectiveness against it.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine took to the podium Tuesday to reassure those closely following the results of new studies.

“All the vaccines we’re using in the United States are highly effective, and that includes J&J,” Dr. Levine said. “Since we have such high vaccination rates in Vermont, our level of protection is even higher.”

Still, some are already asking about booster shots for the J&J vaccine, despite Dr. Anthony Fauci’s belief that there isn’t enough data to recommend that yet.

“There’s no data currently on how the Johnson and Johnson vaccine specifically would work with the other vaccines,” Dr. Levine said. “We will eagerly await this data, monitor the CDC’s recommendations, and share new guidance as soon as it is available.”

Vermont Human Services Secretary Mike Smith also took time to highlight vaccine clinics happening this week and into the weekend, including one planned for this Saturday at Waterbury’s ‘Not Quite Independence Day Parade’ and at Roosevelt park in Burlington. For more info, visit the Vermont Department of Health website.

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