Gov. Phil Scott and other Vermont officials detailed how people over the age of 75 can get vaccinated during a virtual coronavirus update Friday as they remain in quarantine.
Starting Monday, Jan. 25, people over the age of 75 can begin making appointments to get their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine online or over the phone. Vaccine clinics will open on Wednesday, Jan. 27. Walk-ins are not allowed.
Appointments cannot be made by calling any other Health Department phone number. Officials are asking residents not to call health care providers or hospitals for vaccine appointments.
Scott defended his decision to prioritize elderly people in the second phase of his vaccination plan Friday, emphasizing that statistics show people over the age of 65 are more severely impacted by the virus than any other category.
"We have to be realistic and we have to deal with reality. And the reality is we don't have enough vaccine to do everybody we want," Scott said. "We have to prioritize and from my standpoint, it's a moral obligation that we take care of those who've taken care of us."
Human Services Secretary Mike Smith added that 70% of Vermont's COVID-19 deaths have been among people 75 and older and more than 90% were over the age of 65.
Once the state vaccinates that age demographic -- composed of approximately 49,000 people -- officials will administer doses to people over the age of 70, then 65, respectively.
Smith said the hope is to vaccinate the 65-plus population -- about 125,000 people -- by the start of spring. Vermont would then move to vaccinate those with certain high-risk conditions.
Vermont's federally qualified health centers have vaccinated somewhere between 70% and 92% of their staff, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said Friday. Patient-facing health care workers were given top priority to receive the vaccine in Vermont.
More than 29,000 people have now received the COVID-19 vaccine in Vermont, including 4,092 of whom have received both doses.
"It is our moral imperative to protect, as best we can, those who are at highest risk from this disease," Levine said.
Meanwhile Scott, Smith and Levine, as well as three other Vermont state officials, are quarantining after possible exposure at the virus briefings on Friday, Jan. 15 and Tuesday, Jan. 19.
"I'm doing what we have asked every Vermonter to do during this pandemic when they've been potentially exposed," Levine said. "This is how we keep others safe."
The governor's office said Scott tested negative for COVID-19 earlier this week, but he will continue to quarantine and be tested again on Tuesday.
The state reported 174 new coronavirus cases Friday and six new deaths since Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 169.
Of the 52 outbreaks being tracked by Vermont's epidemiology team, 21 are in long term care facilities or senior independent living, 19 are in workplaces and five are in schools.
Recently, on average, only 10% of cases are associated with outbreaks, according to Levine. More than 50% of people with coronavirus had contact with another person who had it. Only one in four had an unknown source of exposure.