MONTPELIER — Officials are urging younger residents to get the coronavirus vaccine because they’re lagging behind older Vermonters.

At Gov. Phil Scott’s regular news conference Tuesday, Michael S. Pieciak, commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation, said new cases in the past week in those 40 years old and older decreased 22%. But Pieciak said cases for those younger than 40 years old increased 23%.

He said that can be explained by vaccination rates. He said 78% of Vermonters 40-plus have received at least one dose of the vaccine. But that number dips to 41% for those younger than 40 years old.

While those younger than 30 years old weren’t allowed to sign up for a vaccine appointment until a couple of weeks ago, the commissioner said younger residents aren’t scheduling appointments at a rate the state is happy with.

“Which is particularly true for the 18- to 29-year-old category. In fact, when you compare vaccination uptake by age in Vermont against the U.S. average, you will see Vermont is far ahead, or in some cases pretty far ahead, in each age category except for the 18- to 29-year-olds, where we are actually slightly below the national average,” he said.

With Mother’s Day this Sunday, Pieciak said getting vaccinated would be the best gift someone could give.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said younger residents waited patiently while more at-risk residents got their vaccine shots first.

“I want you to know it is your turn now,” Levine said. “Your shot is waiting for you. You can join the more than 350,000 Vermonters who have gotten at least one dose. … For many of you who have not taken the time to get vaccinated, I know you’re not in the group that will never take any vaccine. Quite the contrary, you may just be waiting to see. But my question to you now is, how long are you going to wait?”

He said there’s about a year’s worth of data about the vaccines that shows how effective and safe they are.

“Look at our own experience here in Vermont. We almost never see a case in anyone over 65 these days. Death rates have plummeted, especially for those over 65. And when a death occurs, it is almost invariably an unvaccinated person,” he said.

Levine said state health officials aren’t hearing about any unanticipated side effects of the vaccines months after getting the shot. Instead, he said they are hearing about people who caught the virus developing prolonged symptoms, so-called “long haulers.”

“It is OK to have questions. But please don’t leave yourself vulnerable to the virus and don’t assume others will protect you. It’s just too risky,” he said.

eric.blaisdell

@timesargus.com

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