The state of Vermont is expanding the number of people eligible to be vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19 to include teachers, Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday.
Beginning next week, Vermont will open vaccine eligibility to teachers, school staff and child care workers, the governor said during his twice-weekly virus briefing.
The expansion comes as the supply of available vaccine increased by the federal approval over the weekend of the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, which only requires one shot and can be stored with regular refrigeration.
“Our first allocations in the month of March for the Johnson & Johnson will be... dedicated to the teachers, school employees and child care providers,” said Administration Secretary Mike Smith.
Officials seemed eager to promote the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, even though it’s slightly less effective preventing all disease.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has a 72 percent efficacy rate against all COVID-19 disease compared to a 95 percent efficacy rate of the other vaccines already in use, but it is 100 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations and death from people suffering from COVID-19, said Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine.
“The bottom line summary is that this vaccine will be a valuable addition to our vaccine supply and it is as effective as its predecessors in preventing severe illness and death,” Levine said.
While the first allocation of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this month will be reserved for educators, teachers will be able to choose if they’d prefer the two-dose vaccinations.
Gov. Phil Scott said he felt that some people will prefer the easier-to-use and distribute Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the demand for it could exceed the supply.
“I’m as equally fearful of that as I am about the acceptance (of Johnson & Johnson),” Scott said. “I think there are quite a few people who I have spoken with who are in the same camp that I am. They would take it tomorrow if it was available to them.”
The state is also expanding eligibility to include people aged 16 to 64 who have pre-existing medical conditions that put them at higher risk of complications or death when infected with COVID-19.
Starting Monday, people with those conditions in the 55-to-64 age group will be able to make appointments. The younger group will be able to register the week after that.
This week, Vermont opened up vaccine eligibility to people aged 65 and over. Smith said that as of 9 a.m. Tuesday more than 20,200 people in that age group, estimated at about 42,000 people in Vermont, had registered to be vaccinated.
Scott said that by the end of the month the state is expecting to be receiving 17,000 to 18,000 doses of vaccine a week.
Scott was asked when he felt Vermont could vaccinate everyone who wants to be vaccinated.
“I believe that date will be sometime in July, midsummer, at the rate we are going,” Scott said.
On Tuesday the Vermont Department of Health reported 70 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19, bringing the statewide total since the pandemic began to almost 15,375.
There were 23 people hospitalized with COVID-19, including seven in intensive care.
The state reported one new death, bringing the statewide total since the pandemic began to 206.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 116.57 new cases per day on Feb. 15 to 96.57 new cases per day on March 1.
The latest average positivity rate in Vermont is 1.31 percent. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Vermont the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project.
The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Vermont did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 1.87 percent on Feb. 15 to 1.31 percent on March 1.