MONTPELIER – Gov. Phil Scott has announced that Vermonters age 16 to 18 can start signing up for COVID-19 vaccine appointments on Saturday, a few days earlier than originally planned. Registration begins at 10 am.
Scott said because Pfizer is the only vaccine that’s been approved for 16 and 17 year-olds, he wanted to give that age group an opportunity to lock down an appointment before the full 16-plus age group opens Monday.
18 year-olds aren’t limited in their vaccine choice, but they were included in this early window in hopes that more schools will be able to hold in-person graduation ceremonies and other end-of-year events.
“This is a milestone in their lives, something that many people remember – their graduation,” Scott said. “We’re hoping after all they’ve had to give up over the last year that everyone will have some empathy for them, and we just think its the right thing to do.”
As the Class of 2021 begins to make appointments, Vermont high schools are in the early stages of planning graduation ceremonies.
Vermont Secretary of Education Daniel French said detailed guidance should be ready by the end of April. The Vermont Forward Plan would allow for outdoor gatherings of up to 900 people beginning June 1.
“We are optimistic that schools will be able to hold many of these events this year, and I think it’s important that we try to end the year on a celebratory note for our students,” French said.
It remains to be seen whether the vaccine uptake among this younger population will be as strong as prior age groups – Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said in this case, encouragement from state officials might not be the most effective way to get the point across.
“Obviously, this is the age group we’re most concerned about, because you think you’re invincible at this age,” Smith said. “Our plan is to have Vermonters of that age telling other Vermonters of that age why its important to get vaccinated.”
Students will have to take their class schedules into consideration when booking an appointment, because any hopes of having mobile clinics inside schools were dashed once state officials gave the idea a closer look.
“From a logistical standpoint, it got to be problematic having to make sure that they registered, that they have authorization from their parents, and then having to prioritize,” Scott said. “We have a lot of high schools in the state and we can’t get to them all at the same time.”
Earlier this week, the state opened registration to people 30 and older. As of Friday morning, nearly 18,000 people in that age group had made appointments.