MONTPELIER — State officials celebrated hitting their desired goal of vaccinating 80 percent of eligible Vermonters with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine last week, but they’re not giving up on their push to get shots into as many arms as possible.
“Every shot we administer this week is just as important as the ones we did last week,” Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday during his weekly news conference. “Every vaccination counts and is a step in the right direction.”
As of Tuesday morning, about 81.3 percent of eligible Vermonters had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Remaining restrictions related to the virus were lifted by the governor last Monday after hitting 80 percent.
Mike Smith, secretary of the Agency of Human Services, said walk-in appointments for vaccinations are being offered at most pharmacies now. He listed a number of vaccination pop-up clinics this week including sites at the Brattleboro Food Co-op, Epsilon Spires in Brattleboro and Southwestern Vermont Medical Center ExpressCare in Bennington.
“We haven’t slowed down,” he said. “We really want to keep up the effort to have sites available for people to get vaccinated.”
Clinics also have been offered at workplaces and facilities where emergency responder agencies are housed.
“We’re going any place we can possibly go to get people vaccinated,” Smith said.
Areas where less people are vaccinated are anticipated to have “significant outbreaks,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said.
“Fortunately, the Northeast is not one of those locations,” he said.
Levine encouraged those who are vaccinated to help connect others to a health care provider to talk through the process or find “a personal reason” to get a shot. Those conversations are not always easy, he said, “but being empathic and understanding can go a long way.”
“Getting vaccinated gives you control back over your health and over your life,” he said.
Evidence shows new variants of the virus are taking a big toll on the unvaccinated, he said.
Mike Pieciak, commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation, said Vermont continues to lead the country — it has the highest vaccination rates, lowest case counts, fewest hospitalizations and for a second week in a row, no fatalities. He said 38 new cases were recorded in Vermont last week, which is eight fewer than the week before and the lowest total in nine months.