"While we look forward to a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, we hear the fears expressed by many that political pressure is being applied to rush approval of a vaccine before it has been properly tested.
Let me be clear. We stand with science."
Mark Levine, MD, Commissioner of Health
A safe and effective vaccine is a critical tool for stopping the spread of COVID-19.
While there are still things we don't know about the COVID-19 vaccine, we do know that there is much we can do now to prepare, and we are not starting from scratch in Vermont. We will build on a strong existing primary care and medical home infrastructure, our experience with vaccine distribution in past public health crises, and valuable partnerships across the state with health care and community partners to help make sure all Vermonters have access to the vaccine.
Putting Safety First
The global push to find a vaccine for COVID-19 is unprecedented, but this urgency can not outweigh the importance of vaccine safety and efficacy. That is why we keep a close watch on the vaccine development process and put science above all else when it comes to distributing any vaccine in Vermont. Before it is given to anyone in Vermont, a vaccine must meet strict U.S. Food and Drug Administration safety standards and be recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). All newly developed vaccines must also be monitored continuously for safety.
Identifying Priority Groups
Based on what we know now, it is likely that the initial supply of COVID-19 vaccine will be limited, and will be distributed to states in phases, with early vaccine going to certain groups of people. Those groups may include:
- people who provide direct care to others (for example, health care professionals)
- people who are critical to the COVID-19 response (for example, people who work at COVID-19 testing sites, people who process COVID-19 specimens at laboratories)
- people who are essential to maintaining a functional society (for example, first responders)
- older adults and people who have chronic illnesses and are at the highest risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19
We will look to recommendations from the National Academies and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and gather input from organizations and partners across Vermont, to determine what these groups will be in Vermont.
Ensuring Equitable Access
When a COVID-19 vaccine is more widely available, we will work closely with the health care providers, pharmacies, and others who will provide the vaccine in Vermont, to ensure access across the state. We will also collaborate with community organizations and other partners to make sure people who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, including Black, Indigenous and people of color, have equitable access to the vaccine.
Sharing Information with Vermonters
We are committed to sharing ongoing updates with Vermonters as we make plans for vaccine distribution, and as we learn more about strategies at the national level. Below you will find our draft interim COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan for Vermont. For a quick look at the plan, read the executive summary.