Strong vaccination rates could speed reopening of Vermont, Scott says

Vermont

MONTPELIER – At Tuesday’s COVID-19 briefing, Governor Phil Scott said he may accelerate the Vermont Forward Plan due to strong vaccination rates in the state.

The governor will make an announcement on Friday regarding Phase III, which is currently scheduled to go into effect on June 1. It would get rid of quarantine and testing requirements for cross-state travel, and increase indoor and outdoor capacity limits.

“There’s also a possibility we could accelerate the final step now slated for July 4, but to do that, we need a lot more people vaccinated than are currently registered,” Scott said.

The Vermont Forward Plan is tied directly to vaccination rates, and Scott said the state is roughly two weeks ahead of schedule.

“We’ve said since the beginning that our plan can change depending on conditions, and it could’ve gone either way, but fortunately, we’re in a very good place,” he added.

By the end of the week, a new age group could provide a boost to the state’s overall vaccination rate as the CDC prepares to weigh in on use of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12 to 15.

“After approval, instruction and guidance surrounding use will be released to the states,” said Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine. “Vermont has been preparing for this. We’ll be ready to offer vaccine to this age group almost immediately.”

Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said there’s plans in the works to bring the vaccine directly to students.

“Clinics are in the process of being scheduled at more than 40 schools across the state,” Smith said.

School-based clinics will begin on May 17, and Smith said the schedule should be finalized in the coming days.

The FDA authorized the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15 year-olds on Monday. As Dr. Levine said, Vermont is prepared to open registration as soon as it clears approval from the CDC.

Dr. Levine called the FDA’s action “great news,” adding it was informed by clinical trials that included 2,260 children ages 12-15 years old in the U.S. — about half of whom got Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

“There were 18 cases of COVID-19 in the placebo group and, significantly, none in the vaccinated group — that’s 100% efficacy,” Dr. Levine said. “Side effects were about the same as those seen in people 16 years old and older.”

Anyone with questions about the vaccine is asked to visit healthvermont.gov/covid-19 or talk to a trusted pediatrician or health care provider.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will meet on Wednesday and are expected to recommend the vaccine to the CDC.

Meanwhile, as other states like Ohio, West Virginia, Alabama and Maryland consider or actively use incentives to get more people vaccinated, Governor Scott was asked if Vermont would follow.

“It’s not as though it’s off the table, but it would be unfortunate I think to have to institute a program like that when we’ve had so many step up for the common good and do it already,” Scott said. “I think it sends the wrong message.”

If you are looking for a walk-in appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine, stay up to date at healthvermont.gov/MyVaccine and follow social media feeds @healthvermont.

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