Safe and effective vaccines are critical to ending the COVID-19 pandemic.
Putting Safety First
The global push to develop vaccines for COVID-19 is unprecedented, but this urgency cannot 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 (FDA) safety standards and be recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).* All newly developed vaccines will also be monitored continuously for safety.
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.
deciding who gets vaccine and when
The initial supply of COVID-19 vaccine will be limited. Vaccine efforts will prioritize groups that:
- Are most critical to the COVID-19 response
- Provide direct care to others
- Are at highest risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19
Initial doses will go to the groups identified as priority populations in Phase 1A by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). This includes high-risk health care workers and long-term care facility residents. These priority populations were also recommended by Vermont’s COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Advisory Committee and approved by Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD.
Vermont is using age groupings to distribute the vaccine with the primary goal of saving lives. After people 65 years and older group, the vaccine will be offered to people with medical conditions that put them at increased risk for severe illness. Decisions about who will get the vaccine next are being made now. 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.
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.
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.
Who are BIPOC?
Anyone who is Black, Brown, Asian (AAPI or APIDA), Indigenous/First Nations/Abenaki, African American, Hispanic, Latino/Latina/Latinx, mixed race, or biracial.
AAPI stands for Asian American and Pacific Islander. APIDA stands for Asian, Pacific Islander, Desi American. Desi is a pan-ethnic term used to refer to people from South Asia.
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 12 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.
Migrant farm worker vaccination initiative
To ensure equitable access to vaccine for migrant farm workers, we are working closely with our local health offices across the state, along with partners Bridges to Health and the Open Door Clinic, who have established connections to migrant agricultural communities. Little Rivers Health Care is supporting these efforts in the Upper Valley region of Vermont. The initiative has started in Addison County, with plans in place to expand across Vermont. These small, on-site vaccinations are being customized to meet the needs of different farms that are home to congregate living spaces. They are for farm workers who meet the current eligibility criteria, along with fellow farm workers living in the same household.
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.
Sharing Information with Vermonters
We are committed to sharing ongoing updates with Vermonters as we continue to make plans for vaccine distribution, and as we learn more about strategies at the national level.
The Vermont COVID-19 Vaccine implementation Advisory Committee:
- Advises the Commissioner of Health on COVID-19 vaccines, and
- Makes recommendations about the needs of priority populations during vaccine planning and distribution when the supply is limited.
The committee discusses and shares ideas for reaching priority populations and promoting COVID-19 vaccination. Committee members have different professional backgrounds and bring with them a variety of experience and expertise.
ADVISORY COMMITTEE UPDATES
Advisory Committee Recommendations
- Policy Recommendation on Vaccinations for Incarcerated Individuals (March 15, 2021)
- Vaccine Allocation Recommendations (December 31, 2020)
- High-Risk Chronic Conditions
Advisory Committee Members
Abenaki Tribal Member
Association of Africans Living in Vermont
Bi-State Primary Care Association
Brattleboro Memorial Hospital
Disability Rights Vermont
Long Term Care Facilities Representative
Northeast Vermont Regional Hospital / Vermont Chapter of American College of Emergency Physicians
Support Services at Home (SASH)
US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)
UVM Vaccine Research Center
UVM Health Network
UVM Medical Center
UVM Department of Nursing
Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems
Vermont Care Partners
Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness
Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living
Vermont Department of Health
Vermont Emergency Management
Vermont Ethics Network
Vermont Legal Aid
Vermont Medical Society
Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity
Vermont Pharmacists Association
Vermont's Free & Referral Clinics
VNAs of Vermont