Vermont Governor Phil Scott held his latest COVID-19 briefing Tuesday. The governor and administration officials discussed how the rollout of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine could impact the state's vaccination program.
Governor Scott started by announcing that beginning next week the state will expand the eligibility for those who can make appointments to receive vaccines to include people aged 16 to 64 with pre-existing medical conditions placing them at risk of complications if they contract COVID-19. He said the state also plans to begin vaccinating school personnel due to the availability of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“We know getting our kids back in school for in-person instruction five days a week is essential," Scott said. "Beginning next week we’ll begin vaccination of school staff as well as child care and early education providers. This includes giving them the option of the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the two dose vaccines through our partnership with Walgreens. There will also be an expansion of Phase 1A which will expand eligibility in our public safety system.”
The Republican then temporarily left the briefing to join the weekly call between the National Governors Association and the White House on national vaccine distribution.
Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith outlined the expected plan beginning the week of March 8th. The Phase 5 plan means about 75 thousand Vermonters become eligible.
“In order to manage this group and get them vaccinated as quickly and as efficiently as possible Phase 5 will be divided into two segments: Phase 5A those 55 years old and above with high risk conditions and Phase 5B those 16 to 54 with high risk conditions," Smith said. "For Phase 5A registration will begin on Monday March 8th. For Phase B registration will begin Monday March 15th.”
Governor Scott returned to the briefing after his conference call and said he was encouraged that the Pfizer and Moderna allocations will be increased to the states next week by 700,000 doses nationally. The federal pharmacy program will also receive a slight increase. But he said plans that were revealed for initial distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could cause some “wrinkles” in Vermont’s vaccination expansion plans.
“They said there will not be a distribution of Johnson & Johnson next week and they’re not guaranteeing anything in the third week," Scott said. " But they said by the end of March we should be getting four to six thousand doses every single week and then in April they believe we’ll be receiving five to six thousand weekly. But we already have some in hand so we’ll be able to start with what we spoke about earlier next week but the following week could be challenging. We also heard that Johnson & Johnson and Merck are teaming up for production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and I think that’s where we’re going to see vastly increased supplies in the near future.”
Governor Scott said he is hopeful that all Vermonters can be vaccinated by mid-July or early August.