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New England News

Scott Administration Discusses Pandemic Mental Health And Vaccine Plans

Vermont Statehouse
Pat Bradley/WAMC
/
Vermont Statehouse (file)

Vermont Governor Phil Scott and members of his administration provided a regular update on the state of the coronavirus pandemic today.  Officials urged Vermonters experiencing COVID-related stress to seek help from mental health services.

On Thursday Vermont reported its highest number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic and Governor Scott says with such data it’s clear the virus is active and widespread.  He urged Vermonters to continue wearing a mask, washing hands and stopping social gatherings.  “The vaccine is right around the corner but until it’s here the threat of the virus taking over is very real.  I know this has been among the most stressful events most of us have had to deal with. It’s been so prolonged and we don’t know when it will end. So if you’re feeling COVID fatigue, the loss of not being able to get together with others or the anxiety and pressure of losing your job or having financial problems, you’re not alone. These are reasonable, normal responses to a very abnormal event.”

Vermont Department of Mental Health Commissioner Sarah Squirrell said many people are experiencing high levels of stress for the first time in their lives as a result of the pandemic.  “It’s okay to not feel okay right now.  There are many valid reasons to be worried, overwhelmed, anxious and exhausted. And if these feelings are beginning to impact you seeking help can be very supportive. But I know that’s not always easy. Unfortunately there is still stigma around mental health. We need to break down the barriers of stigma and don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

Officials expect 5,850 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to arrive in Vermont by the end of the year and do not yet know how much Moderna vaccine will be allocated to the state. Governor Scott cautions life will not return to normal anytime soon even as people begin to be vaccinated.   "When you consider the number of people we have across the country that are in need of the vaccination, we’ll have to manufacture this, get it to the states and then actually vaccinate people, and then a second booster shot on top of the initial one. So this is going to take some time. This is going to take months. But from my standpoint the sooner we get at it the better.”

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine adds that even as vaccinations begin Vermonters will have to  continue to take precautions.  “We’ll assume since most of the vaccines are two dose they would not be fully protected after one dose so they’d have to wait for the second dose. And then you have to allow the appropriate time for the body to mount the immune response. So we’re talking from the day you got your first dose still probably a couple months before you would consider yourself to be ready to face the world so to speak without the protection of everything.  Having said that the Pfizer CEO just recently acknowledged that one thing that he was not aware of yet from the trials is can you still be infectious to others even though you’ve gotten the vaccine?”