Vaccinating Vermont: So much progress, but still more work to do.

By Jeff Tieman
VAHHS President and CEO

In month 14 of COVID-19, almost 400,000 doses of life-saving vaccine have been administered in Vermont. Nearly 30% of Vermonters have completed vaccination. Some counties are at or near 50% in overall progress.

It is worth pausing on these statistics. Flash back to one year ago this week: Growing case counts and hospitalizations, health care providers scrambling for PPE, staff levels depleted as schools shuttered, surge capacity sites activated, incident command in full effect across government and public health. 

The concept of a vaccine was still blurry at best. We didn’t know a lot about how COVID-19 behaved or evolved, let alone how to inoculate against it. But even in those dark early days, work was underway at pharmaceutical companies and in the scientific community to knock COVID down.

As clinical trials took shape behind the scenes, the public—and many health care providers—still viewed effective, available vaccines as far off. It was often repeated that most vaccines take years, if not decades, to create, develop and deploy. We envisioned months on end of managing the pandemic without a long-term solution.

With that context, let’s get back to those statistics. Almost one third of Vermonters are fully inoculated from COVID-19. In one week, everyone in the state who is 16 or older will be eligible to sign up for a vaccine appointment. Three different and highly effective vaccines are available in our state and across the country. 

We have come a long way. And Vermont’s careful, calculated, coordinated response has helped a lot as we now move toward recovery. There is still a lot of work to do, however, including:

  1. Continue vaccination. We must vaccinate as many Vermonters as fast as supply allows. This includes encouraging those who are hesitant to learn about the extremely low risk and very high reward of getting a shot. VAHHS is creating PSAs and other materials to help with the important message.
  2. Address disparities. COVID-19 underlined the fact that our health care system is not equally available and effective for everyone. Work is needed to understand the gaps that must close so that no one receives inferior or insufficient care because they are a person of color.
  3. Stay vigilant. The pandemic is not over yet. Lots of people still need vaccine doses. As difficult as it is with so much progress taking place, it’s still critical to put masks on faces, keep six foot spaces and avoid crowded places! We’re almost there. We got this.