MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott says households that have been fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus can gather with other households effective immediately.
Moreover, Vermont will move to the next age band for vaccinations starting next week.
At his regular Tuesday news conference, the governor said he was ready to announce a change in gatherings as the state continues to vaccinate Vermonters.
“Anyone who has been fully vaccinated may gather with another household regardless of whether the other household has been fully vaccinated or not,” he said.
A fully vaccinated resident, meaning an individual getting their second vaccine dose more than two weeks ago, can meet with multiple unvaccinated households in a single day. However, Scott said this change only applies to visits involving one other household at a time and unvaccinated households still cannot meet with each other.
“We’re working through how this would impact other issues. But again, hopefully you understand, we hope to have more answers in the days to come. And as a reminder, we’re doing this because the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidance changed earlier this month because they concluded not only do vaccines protect you from COVID-19, but they also prevent you from spreading it, which is very encouraging,” he said.
The state already made one change due to the shift in CDC guidance. Officials announced last week that starting Tuesday, residents who have been fully vaccinated don’t need to quarantine if they leave the state and return. Travelers from outside the state who have been vaccinated also no longer needed to quarantine upon entering Vermont.
The state is currently vaccinating those who are 70 years old or older.
State officials have said the priority for vaccinations is to prevent severe illness and death so older residents, who make up the vast majority of deaths from the virus in Vermont, have been the focus. Older residents living in long-term care facilities and anyone 75 years old or older have already been given access to the vaccine.
Mike Smith, secretary of the state Agency of Human Services, said registration for those aged 65 to 69 will begin Monday at 8:15 a.m. Residents are encouraged to register online at healthvermont.gov/MyVaccine instead of over the phone at 855-722-7878, if possible, to avoid overwhelming the phone system.
Smith said there are about 42,000 residents in the 65 to 69 age band.
According to the state’s vaccine dashboard, nearly 46,500 residents have received both doses of the vaccine and another 44,700 have received their first dose. Nearly 16.5% of the eligible population in the state have received at least one dose.
The available vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna require two doses, weeks apart, for maximum efficacy and the vaccines can only be given to those 16 years old and older because they haven’t been tested on people younger than that.
The governor wasn’t in attendance at the start of his news conference because he was on a call with other governors and the Biden administration about the pandemic response. Scott said the state’s weekly vaccine allocation will increase again, this time by about 1,000 doses. He said for the next three weeks, Vermont will receive “a minimum” of about 14,500 doses per week. The governor said he wasn’t sure what the minimum part meant from the federal government, but he expected more details next week.
Scott said a third vaccine, from Johnson & Johnson, which only requires a single dose, is expected to receive emergency use authorization from the FDA this week. While it’s not as effective as the other vaccines at preventing someone from falling ill from the virus — studies have shown it’s about 66% effective overall compared to 95% for Pfizer and Moderna — it has been shown to be about 95% effective at preventing severe illness and death.
Scott said, if approved, about 2 million doses of the new vaccine would be distributed to states on a per capita basis. He said that would mean Vermont would see its vaccine allotment increase by another 2,000 doses per week.
He said the company couldn’t commit to a steady supply of doses for three weeks, but it is hoping to send out 20 million doses by the end of March. The federal government has gotten into the habit of telling states how much vaccine they will receive for the next three weeks so state officials can plan accordingly for distribution.