About COVID-19 Vaccines in Vermont

About COVID-19 Vaccines in Vermont

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.

getting the vaccine

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Now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine: health care workers, 1st responders, long term care residents, and people 70 years and older

Why get vaccinated?

COVID-19, also called coronavirus, is making people sick around the world. In addition to wearing masks, keeping 6 feet apart and washing our hands, 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.

COVID-19 vaccines will not give you the disease. Vaccines make your body think you have the disease without actually getting it. The immune system, the part of your body that fights sickness, responds to the vaccine by creating antibodies. Antibodies are disease-specific proteins that fight off the virus when they see it. The vaccines currently available use mRNA technology, which does not affect or interact with a person’s DNA. Watch a video from Johns Hopkins about mRNA vaccines.

Who can get a COVID-19 vaccine now?

people 70 years and older

People 70 and older need to live, work or access primary care in Vermont to be eligible for the vaccine.

Health care personnel and Residents of Long-Term Care Facilities

NOTE: While health care personnel are eligible and many have been vaccinated, vaccine supply fluctuates. Check with your local hospital for updates on vaccine for health care personnel.

Health care personnel and long-term care residents include:

  • Health care personnel (health care personnel comprise clinical staff members, including nursing or medical assistants and support staff (e.g., those who work in food, environmental, and administrative services)). Learn more about vaccines for health care personnel.
  • Residents of long-term care facilities (skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities) Vaccination may be offered first to residents and health care personnel in skilled nursing facilities because of health care personnel's high likelihood to be exposed to COVID-19 patients and long-term care residents (health care personnel are clinical staff members, including nursing or medical assistants). Learn more about vaccines for long-term care facility residents and staff.

The Vermont Vaccine Implementation Advisory Committee has specified that "health care personnel" includes:

  • Long-term care staff* who have direct patient contact
  • Health care providers (all classes including students and support personnel), primarily but not exclusively located in the Emergency Departments and Intensive Care Units, providing care to patients with COVID-19
  • Emergency Medical Services personnel** with direct patient contact
  • Home health care clinical staff and caregivers who have contact with multiple patients or who are high-risk for serious illness from COVID-19
  • Any other health care providers and staff who have patient contact

*Staff includes all health care providers who enter the facility, regardless of who employs them, as well as ancillary staff. Family caregivers are not included in this definition.
**Emergency medical service personnel and responders include staff within ambulance or rescue squads, fire or police departments, who respond to emergency calls to provide or assist with care or transport for, or access to, sick or injured persons.

Who will be eligible next?

Age Groupings

Vermont is using age groupings to determine who can receive the vaccine next based on our primary goal with vaccination efforts –  to save lives.  

People in Vermont who are 70 years and older can make appointments now. People should make an appointment online. If they are not able to make an appointment online, they can call. Get appointment setting details here.

Starting March 1, people 65 years and older can make appointments. All of the phases will overlap. Based on what we know now about how much vaccine Vermont will get from the federal government, it will probably take until spring to finish these groups. This is an estimated plan and timeframe that could shift based on how much vaccine Vermont receives and how many people choose to get vaccinated when they are eligible.

High-risk Health Conditions

After the age groups, the vaccine will be available to people in Vermont who have certain high-risk health conditions. These are medical conditions that put them at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 as identified by the CDC. We estimate that this group will begin scheduling appointments in late March. This is only an estimate and could change based on the federal vaccine allotments we receive.

List of high-risk health conditions

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.

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 will work with partners such as health care practices, pharmacies, employers, and local news media to announce additional groups who become eligible for the vaccine.

List of high-risk health conditions in phase 5

The high-risk health conditions included in Phase 5 are:

  • Current cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis
  • Heart disease, including heart attack, heart failure, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease (angina, acute and chronic ischemic heart disease), cardiomyopathies, and pulmonary hypertension. Does NOT include high blood pressure.
  • Immunocompromised (weakened immune system), due to solid organ transplant, blood, or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, or other causes; or HIV with a low CD4 cell count or not on HIV treatment; prolonged use of corticosteroids or other immune suppressing drugs.
  • Severe obesity (BMI of 40 or above)
  • Pregnancy
  • Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes
  • Disabilities including chromosomal disorders, such as Down syndrome; intellectual disabilities (IQ of 70 or below); disabilities that compromise lung function (neurologic and muscular conditions such as muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, and multiple sclerosis).
  • Sickle cell disease
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.

Where can people get vaccinated?

Health care workers and long-term care residents and staff can find out how to get a vaccine appointment here

People 70 years and older can make an appointment online or by phone. Get appointment setting details here.

For each phase, we will offer vaccines at regional clinics set up by the state. These clinics will be handicapped accessible. Some vaccines will be available through our partner hospitals, providers, and pharmacies.

We are collaborating with health agencies, EMS, community organizations and other partners to ensure euitable access to vaccines across Vermont.

How will I know when I can get my vaccine?

In Phase 1A, health care workers and long-term care residents and staff are being notified directly about when and where they can get vaccinated. 

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

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. 

Two 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. A third vaccine from Johnson & Johnson is being considered by the FDA..

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 – 21 days between doses for Pfizer-BioNTech and 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 requested Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA on February 2, 2021. If approved, we will share more information as we receive it.

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 does not have fetal tissue in it. It won’t give you the disease or affect your DNA.
  • 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.

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.

Do I need to continue prevention steps if I have two doses of the vaccine?

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.

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.

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine have 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 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.

More vaccine resources

Vaccine Facts

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Information

Moderna Vaccine Information

After Vaccine Information

V-safe After Vaccination Health Checker (CDC)