On Monday, December 14th, the very first shipment of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Vermont, earlier than expected. Vermont’s nonprofit hospitals immediately began to accelerate plans to stand up vaccine clinics in their respective communities to administer the much-anticipated vaccine as safely and quickly as possible. The first phase of vaccine distribution includes those health care workers likely to be exposed to COVID-19 patients and residents at long-term care facilities.
“Today is a great day—the first step in conquering the virus that has changed all of our lives for what will be more than a year,” said Jeff Tieman, President and CEO of the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems. “After a period of groundbreaking collaboration and cooperation by thousands of representatives from private manufacturers, health care organizations and global governments, we can now begin the process of vaccinating the world against COVID-19. Today, that process got underway in Vermont.”
Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith commended hospitals and all community health partners for their work to stand up plans for vaccine distribution.
“I admire how quickly and nimbly our health care system moved to organize the first vaccinations so that we could immediately take advantage of this important new tool,” Smith noted. “This is a critical milestone in our efforts to fight this virus.”
A second vaccine from Moderna, Inc. is slated for FDA review later this week, with others to follow. Thousands of health care workers and high-risk Vermonters will be vaccinated in the coming weeks. Still, it will likely be many months before the general public is inoculated.
Tieman warned that the vaccine doesn’t mean Vermonters should be less vigilant about preventing the spread of the virus.
“While we can finally see the possibility of a return to a more regular life, that time is not now,” he stressed. “Even the people who will get their vaccinations today must continue the drill—masks on faces, six-foot spaces, uncrowded places—until enough people receive the vaccine to stop it from spreading,” he said. “I have faith that Vermonters will continue to show the restraint that has our state in a better position than others during the holiday season.”