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Vermont Officials Urge Vaccinations As COVID Cases Surge Across The Country

May 2021 file photo of Vermont Governor Phil Scott
Pat Bradley/WAMC
May 2021 file photo of Vermont Governor Phil Scott

Vermont Governor Phil Scott and members of his administration held their weekly briefing on Tuesday.  Continuing vaccinations against COVID-19 in the highest vaccinated state in the nation was their primary focus as cases rise in other areas of the country.

According to Republican Governor Phil Scott, 83.6 percent of Vermont residents 12 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine and 74.7 percent are fully vaccinated.

Scott said while the state leads the nation in getting residents vaccinated they will not diminish efforts to get the shots to the nearly 90,000 remaining eligible residents especially as the more transmissible Delta variant is spiking infections in areas of the country with low vaccination rates. 

“Fortunately, and this is important, the vaccines are proving effective against all variants we've encountered so far including Delta," Scott said. "The data clearly shows the risk of becoming a case is significantly higher for unvaccinated adults versus vaccinated. If you want to avoid getting or spreading COVID-19 and if you want to make sure you recover if you do contract it we hope you'll get your vaccine today or at the very least talk to a trusted healthcare provider about it. The best tool we have to defeat the Delta variant is vaccination.”

During the weekly data and virus tracking update, Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak said cases have risen across the country over the past five weeks, including 171 new cases in Vermont in the past week, most among those not fully vaccinated. 

“Looking at the most recent forecast we do expect cases to remain elevated compared to where they were in June and we expect that to continue for the next number of weeks again driven by the more transmissible Delta variant spreading among those who remain unvaccinated in Vermont," Pieciak said. "And it's important to keep in mind if someone decides not to be vaccinated they are choosing not only to endanger themselves but those who they live with, work with and socialize with and ultimately are helping prolong the pandemic.”

Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith recommended that any Vermonters traveling out of state, especially to an area experiencing a surge in COVID 19, get tested when they return. 

“This is especially important if you are unvaccinated," Smith said. "We are we still have a robust testing infrastructure. Very soon we will be transitioning to COVID resource centers that will offer both testing and vaccines. So we will continue to have plenty of testing opportunities.”

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says while Vermont remains relatively safe, the nation is in an unfortunate stage of the pandemic as progress reverses. 

“The main reason why we still struggle with the virus, even here in Vermont, is the cycle of increased transmission of virus among the unvaccinated population," Levine said. "People who are not vaccinated are the perfect hosts for the virus to set up shop, multiply and mutate. I urge you to get your shots sooner rather than later and not become part of the pandemic of the unvaccinated.’

Some jurisdictions outside of Vermont are considering mandating vaccinations.  Governor Scott said it is not necessary to place such a mandate on Vermont state employees. 

“When you have a vaccination rate of about 84 percent and climbing we're in a much better position than other states," Scott said. "So I don't think that's necessary at this point in time.”

Vermont leads the nation having vaccinated 63 percent of those aged 12 to 15.  With schools opening in five weeks officials urged parents to get the shot to that age group now. Education Secretary Dan French said schools are preparing for in-person classes. 

“At this point we're directing to prepare for full in person instruction," French said. "We haven't given out any direction on doing both remote and in person.”

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