The latest phase of Vermont’s coronavirus vaccination process started Wednesday, with residents age 75 and up eligible to receive their initial doses of the vaccine.
Twenty-five sites around Vermont were providing vaccinations Wednesday, the Vermont Agency of Human Services said.
“Our staff — when we talk about it, we are teary-eyed with joy to be moving onto the vaccination stage, for sure,” said Heather Danis of the Vermont Health Department, who was overseeing a vaccination clinic in Burlington.
Vermont’s strategy prioritizes groups at greatest risk of death from the virus, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine and Gov. Phil Scott have explained.
For now, the vaccines are going to Vermont residents aged 75 and up, with eligibility expanding to others once this population receives its vaccines.
“Why would I want to wait?” vaccine recipient Frank Romary of Burlington asked rhetorically. “I want to get it done!”
Once he received his shot, Romary waited at the location for 15 minutes to ensure there were no adverse reactions.
“No complications — it was perfect,” Romary reported to NECN after leaving. “It was painless; just the way you like it.”
Winooski resident Yvonne Fenniman said she is looking forward to spending time with her grandkids.
“I can’t wait to have them back in my place again,” she said before entering the vaccine clinic.
After her injection, that goal of more family visits started feeling a bit more within reach.
“I’m a step closer,” she said as she left the vaccination site.
State leaders said about 29,000 Vermonters, roughly 60% of people eligible in this age band, had registered for a vaccine appointment by 9 a.m. Wednesday.
However, Scott and Mike Smith, Vermont’s human services secretary, acknowledged there were some headaches and glitches in the signup process.
Scott promised that those will be improved so that the system works the best that it can for everyone.
“Vermont was the first state in the country to have more people vaccinated than the number of people who contracted the virus, and every day that goes by, we’re getting closer and closer to ending the emergency and getting back to normal,” Scott added.
Vermont residents age 75+ who wish to register for a vaccination appointment are encouraged to do so online at this website.
Last week, NECN reported that adult children and grandchildren were urged to help senior citizens with sign-ups, if those older relatives do not have web access or if they are not comfortable with computers.
The phone line for registrations in Vermont is 855-722-7878 and is staffed from 8:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, according to a Health Department announcement earlier this week.
Despite the encouraging news of Wednesday’s start of vaccine clinics, the state announced Wednesday morning it appeared it could be forced to dispose of 860 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Smith told reporters a problem with freezer temperature readings at Springfield Hospital meant the Moderna vaccine appears to have been stored at a very slightly higher temperature than the range the company recommends for the effectiveness of its vaccine.
At a biweekly news briefing Wednesday, state officials said they understand that these kinds of things do happen, but expressed that it was unfortunate. However, on Thursday, officials said they'd been told by Moderna that the doses were still usable despite the refrigeration issues, and that none of the flagged doses had been discarded.
State officials also said Wednesday they’re working with home health agencies to get homebound seniors vaccinated, and are reaching out to minority communities to make sure they’re in the queue.
The health department urges Vermonters to remember it can’t accommodate walk-ins, and asks that they try hard to not miss their appointments. Doing so can cause disruptions to clinic operations or even wasted vaccines, officials said Wednesday.
Smith said that, based on how many doses Vermont is currently getting each week, it could take five weeks to get through this 75+ age band.
Up next will be the 70+ age band, then 65+, then people with certain medical conditions like cancer and COPD, Scott, Levine and Smith have said.