In Vermont, and in the rest of the nation, everyone age 16 and up is now eligible to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Vermont had prioritized the oldest and most at-risk people first, and opened registration Monday to all others approved by federal health regulators to receive vaccines.
“Getting that vaccine is definitely crucial to safety for my family and me,” said Riley Gauthier, a junior at Champlain Valley Union High School, who added he wants to be protected against COVID-19 for upcoming out-of-state travel for his soccer team.
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Gov. Phil Scott gave high schoolers an early start over the weekend, before Monday’s broader rollout of vaccine eligibility, as part of an effort to get kids back in school, “and, possibly, enjoy the end of the school year in a much more normal way,” he said Friday.
Students told NECN and NBC10 Boston they’re well aware of what a strong vaccine uptake could mean.
“If all the kids get it, we can have a normal graduation,” predicted Pierce Goslivich, a senior at South Burlington High School.
Another South Burlington Senior, Natalle Meiler, said she is getting her shot so she’s ready for college.
“I want to be on campus next year,” Meiler said enthusiastically.
Roughly 90% of all Vermonters in their 70s or older have already gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the state’s COVID dashboard.
Now that folks in their late teens and 20s are eligible, Christie Vallencourt from the Vermont Department of Health is working to reach them with public health messaging.
“Some of our early numbers are very encouraging,” Vallencourt said of the more than 18,000 people from the newly-opened 16-29 age band who registered for vaccine doses by mid-afternoon Monday.
Vallencourt said that, while the state’s current marketing emphasizes universal themes like answering questions about mRNA vaccines, future efforts will reach out even more specifically to young people. Many of those messages will appear on social media channels, Vallencourt said, and will showcase relatable Vermonters discussing their experiences with vaccines.
“We’re really trying to paint this vision for a future that feels a lot more normal,” Vallencourt said of her team’s marketing efforts.
She added that she expects authentic and organic peer-to-peer connections to be really influential in increasing uptake of the vaccine among younger Vermonters.
South Burlington High School senior Traicy Meekins said she already has gotten her first dose and is eager for her second.
“I don’t want it to be my fault that I got someone else sick or put in the hospital or anything like that,” Meekins said. “I want to keep everyone safe.”