I spoke with two folks within the Agency of Human Services and Department of Health (DOH) today to better understand Vermont's decision making process on the vaccination roll out and why more front line workers such as educators are not higher up the list. Here is what I learned. The vaccination roll out in Vermont is a decision between DOH and state leadership with advice from an advisory committee (membership list here - scroll towards end of page) and the CDC guidelines. They issued recommendations for the state to use at the tail end of December 2020. Vermont decided to use age brackets rather than the CDC guidelines as you know for how to sequence the vaccinations.
First, the current plan is not set in stone. They review state, national and international data and science on a daily basis and make changes as needed. Their current framework is about reducing deaths and
looking at who is most at risk of dying based on the current data and transmission information here in Vermont.
In Vermont if you are ages 90-94 you have a 28% chance of dying if you contract COVID. As age brackets get lower to 65 it decreases and significantly decreases at age 65 (0.5%). 40 year olds have a 0.04% and no one under 40 has died in Vermont from COVID. Of the 149 Vermont deaths as of early January 2021, 139 folks were over 65 and the other 10 had significant underlying health issues. They also have a goal of keeping kids in school and supporting teachers. They noted that there have a couple of cases in schools but no major transmission in any Vermont school. Also, any school personnel who is over 65 and/or has a health risk/need can access the vaccine now and/or very soon. The major barrier to a faster timeline and being able to have broader categories for roll out is the very limited number of vaccinations coming to our state. I was surprised to learn the number is very small right now. We only receive 7800-8800 vaccines a week. There are 125K people over 65 in Vermont. People who have chronic illness total around 80-100K. With the current number of vaccinations coming to the state per week that means it will take 4-5 months to get through that population.
The DOH will change categories as necessary as we get more vaccines and/or as conditions change on the ground in schools. For more information or to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to reach out. -Emma