A little more than half of the residents of Rutland and Washington counties have gotten at least one vaccination shot to protect against COVID-19, according to the Vermont Department of Health online vaccination dashboard.

In Washington County, the percentage is 51.7 and Rutland County is slightly behind at 51.2.

Overall, 49.1% of Vermont’s population has gotten one or both of the necessary shots.

Barbara Quealy, a registered nurse and administrative director for primary care and COVID-19 support services at Central Vermont Medical Center, said staff at the Berlin hospital was “very proud.”

She said the vaccines were first given at the hospital at the end of 2020.

“When it was hospital-based, here, we had a team working through our convergence room and even in the corner of a lobby. They had provided over 8,400 vaccines. Since we opened up the new facility over at the former JC Penney, over at the Berlin Mall, we have been ale to administer now over 8,500 vaccines for a total of over 17,000 vaccines administered,” she said.

Claudio Fort, president and CEO of Rutland Regional Medical Censer, said the staff are “tremendously excited about this milestone”

“Our whole organization has been focused on getting our community protected through vaccinations,” he said.

Rutland has been running a clinic from the Holiday Inn six days a week.

Fort described it as switching from being on defense for over a year to going on offense.

This is a positive thing we can to do bring our community back to normal and protect our community.

At the former retail store, also known as the “vaccine hub,” vaccinations are given five days a week to about 420 people a day. Quealy said there are plans to increase to 470 people a day in two weeks.

Quealy said the hub is staffed by people who the community may recognize as being from the CVMC community including physicians, nurses, health care retirees and emergency medical services, or EMS, members.

“These are community members vaccinating their neighbors, their friends , their family members and really spreading the word of the importance of this,” she said.

Fort pointed out that staff at the hospital had to work quickly to develop methods of delivering the vaccines quickly to respond to a pandemic, which was new territory.

“Really, in a couple of weeks, they came up with a plan, logistics and a distribution system for a vaccine that’s never, ever been done before. They’ve done it in incredible time, and they had the foresight to create a very accessible location that’s on the bus route, he said.

Quealy said the CVMC hub had a “small triage area” for medical oversight to address urgent concerns as they arose and a nurse practitioner or other provider on site at all times who can respond to anxiety or allergic reactions or other complex medical issues.

“Having that medical safety net as part of our program, I think has gotten word out through the community regarding the safety of the program the organization and the strong support from the hospital and our medical community,” Quealy said.

Fort said RRMC staff are “humbled” by the trust shown by the community in coming forward to get vaccinated despite the “vaccine hesitancy” seen in other states.

“Not every community has been as trusting in their health care providers to do this,” he said.

Quealy said she believed one of the keys to the success for CVMC has been the work done at the primary care practice.

She said the health care providers there connect with patients and the community, promote the vaccine and encourage patients to get vaccinated.

Both Fort and Quealy said the doctors and nurses in those primary care practices have made the effort to listen to individual concerns and answer questions.

Fort encouraged people who had questions about the vaccines to talk to a trusted health care provider rather than look at social media sites and try to figure out complicated issues without experienced help.

“Pretty much all the experts and our medical staff have said there are very, very few situations where they would not recommend you get vaccinated.”

This week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevision (CDC) recommended a pause in administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccines because a half dozen women developed blood clots after getting the shot. More than 6 million doses have been given.

The Rutland Regional vaccine clinic does not use Johnson & Johnson, so the issue is not expected to cause any changes there although other outlets in the county, such as pharmacies, may use Johnson & Johnson.

Because of that, Fort said the overall progress in the county may slow down because the Johnson & Johnson shot leaves a patient fully protected about two weeks after the single shot.

The other vaccines require two shots weeks apart. Vaccinations will continue, but the progress in percentage of residents vaccinated may take longer, he pointed out.

Quealy said CVMC doesn’t use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine either. She said they expect to continue to provide multiple vaccinations.

“We are looking ahead to the next two weeks. Our schedules are packed,” she said.

Fort said he wanted to remind Vermonters that now is not the time to be lax about social distancing, wearing masks and other COVID precautions. He said there had been a concerning spike in COVID cases in Rutland County recently and asked people to maintain their extra efforts a little longer as more residents got vaccinated and continue to follow directions from the Vermont Department of Health, Gov. Phil Scott’s office and the CDC.

patrick.mcardle

@rutlandherald.com

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