People over the age of 75 will be able to sign up for an appointment to get vaccinated in Vermont starting next week.
Once that age group is vaccinated, which includes about 49,000 people, Vermont will move to vaccinate people over the age of 70, then 65, respectively. The state will then move to those with certain high-risk conditions.
"With such a limited supply and an unpredictable supply of vaccine coming to us. We're prioritizing those most likely to die. If they contract COVID," Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said. "The fact is, the further down the list our older Vermonters are, the more allies we're risking, and we believe preserving life must be our top priority."
More details about next week's launch of Phase 2 will be revealed Friday, Scott said. There will be two ways to sign up; online and by phone or standing up call centers with hundreds of workers.
"I'm asking friends and family members to help those who aren't so savvy with technology to help out," Scott said. "We'll provide a link and a phone number in the coming days."
Scott announced last week that the state will begin Phase 2 of its COVID-19 vaccination plan on Jan. 25, making shots available to the general public according to their age group.
Vermont ranks in the top 10 states for the rate of administering the coronavirus vaccine, Scott noted Tuesday.
Officials also walked through the available programs for businesses being offered by the federal government in the hopes that employers will take full advantage. In contrast to the Cares Act, which Congress passed about eight months ago, the latest coronavirus relief bill does not include flexibility for state spending, but instead uses federally managed and direct grant programs.
Scott also signed into law Tuesday a bill that gives municipalities greater flexibility for upcoming local elections due to COVID-19. Under the legislation, municipalities can choose to mail ballots to all registered voters in place of more traditional town meetings and elections.
Meanwhile, Vermont reached a grim milestone recording over 10,000 cases of coronavirus, though it is the last state to reach that number. This week the state also recorded 11,029 new cases in Vermont, a reduction from last week. The death toll remains at 163.
There were more cases among individuals who were 65 years or older compared to the week prior. Health officials expect to see cases decrease among this age demographic over time as more and more people are vaccinated.
Officials say older residents and those with preexisting conditions are being prioritized in order to bring down the death toll and ease the burden on hospitals as 92% of deaths and 62% of hospitalizations in Vermont occur in that population that are 65 or older.
"Vermont's approach follows the data very closely, specifically the mortality data, and is focused first and foremost on preserving life," Health Commissioner Mark Levine said.
The second phase of vaccine distribution will come after nursing homes, long-term care facilities and front-line health care workers were prioritized in Phase 1.
Scott said last week that due to limited supply of the vaccines, each age band in Phase 2 could take several weeks to complete. The first age band is expected to last six weeks, officials said. Scott warned however, the timeline is subject to change based on the availability of vaccines.
In the third band of Phase 2, vaccinations will be made available to Vermonters aged 18 to 65 with medical conditions putting them at risk of serious COVID-related illness. Such residents include those with cancer, kidney disease, emphysema, some heart conditions, weakened immune system, severe obesity, pregnancy, type 2 diabetes, and Down's Syndrome.
"We wish there was enough vaccine today to give everyone, regardless of age or condition. But as things stand, uncertainty about the allocations coming to Vermont means there's no real opportunity to change our approach," Levine said. "Currently, the age prioritization approach to saving lives is indeed our North Star. It is data-driven and simple."
Those wishing to make a vaccination appointment will be able to do so by phone or online. Registration will begin on Jan. 25, and information about registration will be made available later, officials said.
Those who receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine will be able to make an appointment for a second shot at the time of their first shot.
Emergency Medical Services workers will administer vaccine shots at home to those who are unable to travel to a vaccination site, officials said.