Vermont Gov. Phil Scott on Friday hailed the news that a coronavirus vaccine is nearing approval, but warned the state that, while there's a plan to distribute vaccinations to high-priority groups once they become available, the pandemic is still a danger.
He made the remarks in a Facebook post Friday, a day after a key FDA advisory panel overwhelmingly endorsed the Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, paving the way for an official approval that would put distribution plans into action.
"This is great news but we’re not out of the woods yet," Scott wrote.
He described a daily ritual of "writing down the number of positive cases and deaths for each Northeast state, plus Florida, Texas and California, as a daily reminder to myself about how quickly things can change."
Scott noted that the region's case counts remain high, with rising hospitalizations and deaths as well -- the death toll on Thursday alone surpassed the number of people who died on September 11.
He concluded that, "while it’s important to acknowledge the good news about the vaccine, we’ve got to remember that the virus is still our common enemy. Until enough people are vaccinated, we must keep doing what we’ve been doing: wearing a mask, avoiding crowds/gatherings and quarantining when necessary. Together, we can keep each other safe as we work our way toward the end of the tunnel."
Vermont officials said Tuesday that the state could receive its first doses of coronavirus vaccines within a week and begin vaccinating high-priority residents a week after that.
In a press conference, Health Director Dr. Mark Levine said the state has ordered 5,850 doses of coronavirus vaccines and expressed optimism the first shipments could arrive within a week. Any vaccine must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration before it is administered to people.
Health officials say "Phase 1A" of the state's vaccine distribution plan will focus on health care workers, particularly those who have patient contact in in-patient setting and those in high-risk settings.
Levine said an additional 5,850 doses were being held in reserve so people who get the shot in Phase 1A are able to get a second dose. Both Pfizer and Moderna's vaccines, which have yet to get FDA approval, are two-dose vaccines. He added the state would continue making vaccine orders on a weekly basis.
Pharmacies contracted to provide vaccines at skilled nursing facilities and could hold their first vaccination clinics at long-term care facilities by Dec. 21, Levine said.
Scott added Tuesday the state has enough freezers to accommodate Pfizer vaccine doses, which require super-cold storage.
Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities across Vermont are preparing for the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines to protect residents from the disease.
The head of the Vermont Veterans' Home in Bennington says they are tentatively scheduling two clinics at the home on Jan. 2 and Jan. 23.
CEO Melissa Jackson says both vaccines being considered for distribution require two doses three weeks apart.
"We have a lot of general information, not as much specific yet,'' said Jackson.
Dane Rank, administrator at Thompson House in Brattleboro, said the pharmacy services company contracted to administer the vaccine, will be hosting clinics on Dec. 28, Jan. 18 and Feb. 8.
Rank said staff and residents will be receiving two injections of the vaccine 21 days apart.