Administration officials in Vermont gave an update on COVID-19 vaccinations Tuesday.
The Tuesday briefing began without Republican Governor Phil Scott. He was on a weekly conference call with the National Governors Association and the White House getting a national vaccine distribution update. When Scott joined the briefing he reported that Vermont will receive a slight increase in doses. He also noted concerns during the call about the federal pharmacy program.
“The federal pharmacy program alone will see a near doubling of its allocation," Scott said. "While it's good news there was some questions by fellow governors, and I continue to express concern, over the lack of coordination between that program and the states. So they are going to be watching for any cases where there's stockpiling going on or not utilizing their allocation so that we can get more doses in arms. They also said that the supply overall will remain flat next week. And we were told to expect J&J [Johnson & Johnson] to fluctuate both up and down over the next couple weeks. They just don't have a good handle on the supply chain there.”
Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak presented charts and data showing the weekly progression of COVID-19 across the nation, region and state. Vermont has seen an increase and in the past week came within two cases if its highest weekly case rate since the pandemic began. Commissioner Pieciak notes the data shows it’s younger people now getting the virus.
“Those in their 20s represent 13.4% of the Vermont population but they're representing over 20% of our cases so far this year," Pieciak said. "In March in particular cases among 20-year-olds have had a dramatic rise seeing their share of cases increase 53% so far this month. The reason is clear why we're seeing fewer cases among those in the older populations. It’s simply because they’re stepping up and getting vaccinated.”
Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith announced hospital visitation guidelines are changing.
“Hospitals can now choose to allow fully vaccinated individuals to visit patients in their hospitals," Smith said. "These visitors will need to present evidence of vaccination which includes the COVID-19 vaccination card. Hospitals do have discretion to use more stringent standards and guidance. Hospitals must continue to apply all safety protocols for visitors and patients including the requirement that all visitors wear masks for the duration of the visit.”
Vermonters age 40 and older will be able to make an appointment for a vaccine beginning April 5th. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said two other adjustments have been made in the registration protocols.
“The first is for the relatively small group of parents or primary caregivers who are caring for children who have serious medical conditions and care needs," Levine said. "These parents and primary caregivers can now be vaccinated. The second adjustment is for our population of individuals who are BIPOC: Black, Indigenous and People of Color. Thus far the pace of vaccination for BIPOC continues to lag significantly behind. It is unacceptable. So beginning this Thursday, all members of the Vermont BIPOC community 16 years of age and older as well as their family members will be able to register to be vaccinated.”