About COVID-19 Vaccines in Vermont

About COVID-19 Vaccines in Vermont

Vaccines are important tools to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Vaccines help your body fight off the virus and keep you from getting sick. The more people who get vaccinated, the faster we can end the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Health Department is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other partners to distribute vaccines as they become available. Our goal is to administer every available dose each week. 

Everyone will be offered a vaccine, but it will take time to get to everyone. COVID-19 vaccines are provided to Vermonters at no cost.

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Details on who can get a vaccine now
Details on who will be eligible next
Details on high-risk health conditions

The Health Department is not keeping a list of eligible people. As each group becomes eligible, we will announce when those people can make appointments. In addition to Health Department communications, we work with partners such as health care practices, pharmacies, employers, and local news media to announce additional groups who become eligible for the vaccine.

How Decisions are Made

The Health Department works with State leadership to make these difficult choices after considering recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, CDC, and Vermont’s Vaccine Implementation Advisory Committee. Based on our data, we know that focusing next on providing vaccine to people based on their age and whether they have certain high-risk health conditions will help us save lives.

Equity is also a consideration in our vaccination efforts. We are committed to addressing the historical and current factors that contribute to health disparities. Members of certain demographic groups have been disproportionately overrepresented in Vermont’s COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death rates. Because of these increased risks, historical harms and the resulting mistrust of health care and public health, we will ensure that Black, Indigenous and people of color in Vermont community gets the support they need, in the language they need, in the locations they need, to make informed choices and to get scheduled for vaccinations.

Working toward equity

As part of our strategy to prioritize Vermonters most at risk of severe illness and save lives, we have also begun vaccinating Vermonters in communities that have unique needs, such as people who speak languages other than English and people who are homebound. This requires us to meet people where they are and find ways to reduce known barriers to vaccine access where we can. We will continue to do this as more vaccine becomes available and we are able to reach more people in Vermont. Below are some examples of ways we are working to meet Vermonters where they are to work toward equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Vermonters who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC)

We still have much more to do to address the significant disparities in the rates of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death among Vermonters who are Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC). Right now we are working with funded community partners to understand the barriers that might limit vaccine access for BIPOC Vermonters, as these require unique public health solutions. This coordinated vaccination effort is an important step in working with and compensating trusted community partner networks to reach some of the most historically marginalized people in Vermont. 

People Who Speak Languages Other Than English

The Health Department has begun holding clinics for Vermonters who are eligible by their age grouping — and their family members age 16 and older — who need safe access to linguistically and culturally appropriate services. We work with cultural liaisons, have interpreters on hand or easily accessible, and provide accurately translated materials for these Vermonters. 

We understand that language barriers and other factors faced by immigrant and refugee communities have led to outbreaks, disproportionate outcomes, and a markedly greater risk of COVID-19. It makes good public health sense to allow families and households facing language and access barriers to get information and services at the same time, rather than duplicate these services later on. 

People Who Are Homebound

The Health Department is coordinating vaccination for people who are homebound through a partnership between local home health and EMS agencies.

This includes people who are eligible by their age grouping and are both homebound and in the service of local home health agencies (including both VNA agencies and Bayada).

We know that there are homebound community members who do not receive home health services who will need to be vaccinated. Once the group of homebound people who are connected to home health agencies are vaccinated, we will expand this service by reaching out through numerous partners, including primary care, Agencies on Aging, and municipalities to identify people to include in the second phase of outreach.

About the Vaccines

Which vaccines are available in Vermont?

All the vaccines available, and those we hope are coming soon, were found to prevent severe illness and death. This standard is what is most commonly used to assess other common vaccines like the flu shot. 

Three COVID-19 vaccines have received Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine received an EUA on December 11, 2020. The Moderna vaccine received an EUA on December 18, 2020. The Johnson & Johnson (Janssen Biotech, Inc.) vaccine received an EUA on February 27, 2021.

Learn more about Emergency Use Authorization and watch a video on what an EUA is.

About the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Vaccines

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have nearly identical rates of effectiveness (94%-95%). Their efficacy against the current variants of the virus are being tested. Both vaccines require two doses over a similar timespan – about 21 days between doses for Pfizer-BioNTech and about 28 days for Moderna. Both are authorized for similar age groups. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is authorized for people 16 years and older. The Moderna vaccine is authorized for people 18 years and older. 

Both vaccines are mRNA vaccines, which when introduced into the body, activate the body to produce “spike proteins,” which are displayed on the outside of the body’s cells, and create an immune response.

Possible Side Effects

Some participants in clinical trials for both vaccines showed a strong immune response, leading to side effects. The second shot may result in a stronger immune response than the first shot. This is a normal way that your body builds immunity to COVID-19. Below are some of the participants' most reported side effects during clinical trials for the two leading vaccines.

Side effects of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine reported by some trial participants:

  • Pain at the injection site (84.1%)
  • Fatigue (62.9%)
  • Headache (55.1%)
  • Chills (31.9%)
  • Joint Pain (23.6%)
  • Fever (14.2%)

Side effects for the Moderna vaccine reported by some trial participants

  • Pain at the injection site (92%)
  • Fatigue (70%)
  • Headache (64.7%)
  • Muscle pain (61.5%)
  • Joint pain (46.4%)
  • Chills (45.4%)
  • Nausea/Vomiting (23%)
  • Fever (15.5%)

About the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

Johnson & Johnson received Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA on February 27, 2021. We will share more information soon. Here is what we know now about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine:

  • 1 dose.
  • More stable than Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech, and can be stored at refrigerated temperatures.
  • 85% effective in preventing severe disease.
  • Up to 72% effective at preventing moderate to severe disease. It may be less effective against some of the current variants.
  • Similarly effective across race and age groups, including people over 60 years old.
  • Was well-tolerated without severe allergic reactions in clinical trials.
  • Not a live virus and won’t give you the disease or affect your DNA. The vaccine does not contain fetal cells.
  • Similar to the current COVID-19 vaccines where an immune response is created from the body making the virus spike-proteins. The difference is the vaccine uses DNA to code for this protein, while the current vaccines available use mRNA. 
  • Well researched. This type of vaccine has been researched for decades and was recently approved for Ebola.

Read the Johnson & Johnson Frequently Asked Questions (FDA)

Vaccines & Variants

Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to happen over time. The less a virus circulates, the fewer chances for it to mutate into different variants. This is another reason that all of our prevention steps, including vaccines are so important.

Right now there are a few different variants. Some spread more easily from one person to another. So far, studies suggest that the vaccines available now do help our bodies fight against variant strains of the virus that causes COVID-19. This is being closely investigated and more studies are happening now.

Are the vaccines safe and effective?

Years of research into vaccines have brought us to where we are today. Scientists began researching coronavirus vaccines starting with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012. When these viruses disappeared, the pressure to find a coronavirus vaccine decreased. When COVID-19 was identified, the global focus on eliminating this new coronavirus and ending the pandemic, combined with large amounts of funding, helped speed up the research process to create a safe and effective vaccine.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccineModerna vaccine, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine received Emergency Use Authorization from U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Step 1: Vaccine Safety

With a brand new vaccine, researchers give it to a small number of volunteers — usually 20 to 100 — to test for any serious side effects. This step also helps determine the right dose or amount of vaccine to use.

Step 2: Vaccine Effectiveness

Once they know a vaccine isn’t likely to cause any serious side effects, researchers then give it to hundreds of people to determine how well the vaccine works (or its effectiveness). Researchers continue to monitor for any short-term side effects.

Step 3: Double Check Safety & Effectiveness

This is the last step before researchers can apply for approval from the FDA and begin to use it. To make sure the vaccine is safe and effective for people across ages, ethnicities, genders, and other factors, they give it to tens of thousands of people. This uncovers less common side effects and confirms once again that it’s safe and works well for everyone.

Step 4: Continue to Check Safety & Effectiveness:

Even after researchers have answered the big questions, they keep studying the vaccine. They gather longer-term data to make sure the vaccine continues to work well.

Sometimes, when a vaccine is urgently needed, researchers combine steps to speed up the approval process. This doesn’t mean that they’re skipping any important steps. It does mean researchers and public health organizations are working together at an extraordinary level to get a safe, e­ffective vaccine to the people who need it the most.

Why do I need two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine?

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, spaced about 3-4 weeks apart. We strongly recommend Vermonters get both doses for the highest level of protection from COVID-19.

Two doses of these vaccines are scientifically proven to be highly effective in preventing COVID-19. Since the beginning, we have followed the science. Participants in the clinical trials who did not receive both doses were not followed for a long period of time, so we do not know for sure about how well or how long one dose will protect you.

A two-dose vaccine is not new. For some vaccines, like hepatitis B, shingles and HPV, two doses produce a longer-lasting protection. While the first dose gets your immune system ready and offers some protection, the second dose boosts that protection by using your body’s new immune cells it created after the first dose. This “booster” increases the strength of your new antibody protection and makes it last longer.

Taking the full course of vaccine offers better protection against variants of the virus. In fact, being only partially vaccinated, for example getting only one dose of a two-dose vaccine, could increase the risk of vaccine-resistant variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This is because the virus could be weakened with some antibody protection, but not stopped completely, creating the potential for the virus to mutate.

Some people experience stronger side effects after the second shot. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have equal doses in their first and second shots, but for some, stronger side effects are part of their body’s normal immune reaction to that “boost” in protection. Common side effects reported were pain at the injection site, fever, chills, tiredness and headache. These side effects typically go away within a few days.

Whether you experience side effects or not, rest assured the vaccine is working to protect you, your family and your community.

Do I need to continue prevention steps if I have been vaccinated?

Yes. People who get the vaccine should continue taking steps to prevent COVID-19. You may not be protected from COVID-19 until you are fully vaccinated, which is two weeks after your final shot. It takes time for the vaccine to train your body to fight COVID-19. While the vaccine protects you from serious illness, we don’t know if you can give the virus to someone else. Until enough people are vaccinated and we know more, we need to follow the safety guidelines like wearing a mask out in public, washing your hands frequently, and social distancing and following social gathering guidelines.

If you are fully vaccinated and then are a close contact of someone with COVID-19, you do not need to quarantine in certain situations. Learn more about what this means.

If you are fully vaccinated you do not have to quarantine when you travel or return to Vermont. 

Together, the vaccine and preventive actions are the best ways to keep from getting and spreading COVID-19.

More vaccine resources

Vaccine Facts

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Information

Moderna Vaccine Information

Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Information

Johnson & Johnson Emergency Use Authorization Factsheet for Recipients - This factsheet includes information about EUAs, who should and shouldn't get a vaccine, vaccine ingredients, risk and benefits of the vaccine and possible side effects.

After Vaccine Information

V-safe After Vaccination Health Checker (CDC)