Health Care

Town-by-town vaccination data shows strong overall picture with some lagging areas

Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect and explain limitations of the data provided by the Vermont Department of Health. Specific references to towns with purportedly low vaccination rates have been removed, given the likelihood that those rates are not accurate.

A new data map created by the Vermont Department of Health provides a fuller picture of the state’s vaccination status — and how rates vary from one town to the next — as Vermont approaches the 80% threshold for reopening.

The map shows the percentages of Vermonters age 12 and older who had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine as of Wednesday. It’s also searchable, which allows residents to enter in their town or address to see vaccination rates in their communities. 

The map and its underlying data, however, come with significant caveats — and great potential for undercounting or overcounting vaccination rates in certain municipalities. That’s because, in many cases, Vermonters provide their mailing addresses when registering for vaccines with the state and pharmacies. Those who live in towns without a dedicated zip code could be counted as living in a neighboring town, according to Jessie Hammond, public health statistics chief for the department. 

The town of Georgia, for example, had a population of more than 4,500 people as of the 2010 Census but lacks its own zip code. So its vaccinated residents are likely counted in the totals for neighboring Milton, Fairfax and St. Albans — all of which share zip codes with Georgia. That would explain why the map falsely states that fewer than 10% of Georgia’s population is vaccinated. Similarly, the purported vaccination rates of its neighboring towns are likely inflated.

Vaccination rates in areas close to the New Hampshire border could also be inaccurate, Hammond said, because Vermont and New Hampshire lack a data-sharing agreement and some residents of one state have been vaccinated in the other.

According to Hammond, the department is working to clean up the data. 

In all, 72 towns are listed as having already hit the 80% threshold, and 33 towns are listed as having reached 90%. 

Vaccination rates are near 50% or higher in nearly three-quarters of Vermont towns, according to the department’s data. 

Vermont has now administered more than 757,800 of the 860,000 vaccine doses it has received so far.

As of June 1, 432,052 Vermonters had received at least one dose of the vaccine, including 2,728 vaccinations tallied from Sunday and Monday. State officials say 8,708 more vaccinations are needed to hit the 80% goal. 

The state could reopen as soon as June 6 if about 2,000 Vermonters are vaccinated each day, according to current projections. But even when statewide restrictions are lifted, the town-by-town data suggests that some communities will be better prepared than others. 

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Seamus McAvoy

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