Health Care

As Covid-19 cases remain low statewide, national worries rise about variants

Gov. Phil Scott announces that 80% of the Vermont population 12 and older has been vaccinated against Covid-19 at a press conference in Montpelier on June 14. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

A week after Vermont hit its goal of having 80% of the eligible population at least partially vaccinated, the state continues to report the benefits of leading the nation in vaccination.

Reports of new cases range from three to eight each day, only a handful of people are hospitalized and Vermont hasn’t reported a death in five weeks, the best track record since a surge began in October, according to the Department of Health.

Vermont’s neighbors, who also have a higher-than-average vaccination rate, are reporting their lowest numbers since the start of the pandemic, said Commissioner Mike Pieciak of the Department of Financial Regulation in his Tuesday press conference report.

Yet not all of the news is rosy. Among unvaccinated Americans, the Delta variant, a more transmissible strain of the disease, now accounts for 10% of new cases, Pieciak said.

Health Commissioner Mark Levine quoted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s belief that the Delta variant, first identified in India, will eventually become the “predominant strain” in the United States.

“It’s a concern, but we’re in good shape here in Vermont,” Gov. Phil Scott said. “No other state is as high as we are with 81.3% [vaccinated]. So we just have to continue to work on the remaining 17-18%.”

Vermont has uncovered only one case of the Delta variant so far. But the state sends only a small percentage of its cases for genetic sequencing, so the true number of Delta variant cases is unknown.

Data from the United Kingdom has shown the vaccine is effective against the variant, Pieciak said. Officials emphasized the need to get vaccinated as a defense against the variant and all strains.

“The vaccine is effective, and our best defense against this and other variants,” Levine said. “But we still need as many Vermonters as possible to protect themselves and those around them who can't yet get the vaccine.”

As of Tuesday, 81.3% of Vermonters ages 12 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Department of Financial Regulation report. That’s about 71.8% of the total population.

About 71% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated, meaning they have had two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith listed numerous places offering walk-in clinics this week, from the Waterbury Farmer’s Market to the Barton/Glover townwide yard sale. Walk-in vaccines are also available at many local supermarkets and pharmacies.

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Erin Petenko

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