Frequently Asked Questions (And Answers) About The COVID-19 Vaccine In Vermont

Feb 4, 2021

Vermont administered its first COVID-19 shot on Dec. 15, 2020. The state continues to roll out vaccinations. You've asked us a lot of questions about this process, and here are some answers.

Click on a question below to learn more:

You can also find a COVID-19 vaccine timeline at the bottom of this story.

If you don't see your question listed above, the Department of Health has extensive resources, links, and answers to questions specific to getting vaccinated for COVID-19 here. Or ask it! Send us a message.

If you have questions about COVID-19 that do not concern the vaccine (i.e. testing, symptoms, quarantine), check out both VPR's coronavirus FAQ and the Department of Health FAQ for a more comprehensive list of questions and answers about COVID-19.

More from VPR: Answers To Some Frequently Asked Questions About The Coronavirus

Updated 9 a.m. 2/23/2021

How do I use the online portal?

The Department of Health has a video that walks you through the steps of how to register and schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment using the online portal. You can watch that video tutorial below:

The steps for registering and scheduling will also be written further down in this story.

Note: You will need an email address to make an account. You can use the same email address for multiple people, if one person is registered as a "dependent." Learn more about what to do if you do not have your own email address here.

Here are the basic steps to register for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment:

1. You will need to create an account in the registration system. This link will take you to the portal to make an account.

Note: If you've been tested for COVID-19 through the Department of Health before, then you already have an account! If you have an account, but don't remember your password, click "Forgot My Password" and follow the instructions via email to reset your password.

2. If you do not already have an account, you will fill in your basic information and click "Create Account" on the online portal. You then will receive a link, via email, to verify your account. This email will also include a patient ID number.

3. Go back to the online portal. Use the patient ID number included in the confirmation email, and create a password. You will then review and consent to the Notice of Privacy Practices, and enter your personal information. Click "Submit" at the bottom right of your screen once you have entered this information. 

3. After making an account, you can log in to the online portal. There should be a blue button at the top of your screen that says "Schedule Vaccine Appointment." You will then select the name of the person the appointment is for from the dropdown menu.

4. Then, you will be prompted to choose a vaccination site. You can search by county and date range, and then choose a specific clinic location to get your vaccine.

Note: If you do not see your county listed in the dropdown menu, you may need to make your browser window smaller on your computer screen, in order to see the full list of counties.

5. You will then be asked a series of medical and demographic questions. You will be asked for insurance information, but insurance is not required to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

6. You will then complete a waiver and be provided with links to FDA fact sheets for both vaccines. 

7. You will now be able to schedule your appointment. After being asked about COVID-19 symptoms, you will see a list of available appointments for the location and date you selected earlier in the process. 

8. Click on an available appointment to select it, and click "Schedule & Submit" at the bottom right of the screen.

9. You are now scheduled for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment! Your appointment confirmation will be available on the main registration page, and will be emailed to you. 

Alternatively, instead of registering through the Department of Health, you can also make an appointment with Kinney Drugs, by clicking here. You can also make an appointment with Walgreens, by clicking here. The state notes it does not matter if you make your appointment through the Department of Health or through a pharmacy.

The state is encouraging friends and relatives to assist their loved ones with making an appointment, by listing them as a "dependent." Learn more about how to make an appointment for someone else here

If the online portal is not working for you, and you need help, there's a hotline that you can call: 855-722-7878.

The hotline is open Monday through Friday from 8:15 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. and Saturday to Sunday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. The state notes registering online is the most efficient way, if it's available to you.

When is it my turn to get vaccinated?

The Department of Health has all available information on the timeline of the vaccine here

When the next age group is able to be vaccinated, that will be announced here

As of Feb. 16, Vermonters aged 70 and older are eligible to register for a vaccine appointment.

Starting in early March, Vermonters aged 65 and older will be able eligible to register for the COVID-19 vaccine. People aged 65 and older are encouraged to make an account with the Department of Health here, so that they are prepared when it comes time to register for a vaccine appointment.

By the end of March, the Scott administration hopes to offer the vaccine to Vermonters aged 16-65 with chronic health conditions. Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said that the state will rely on “the honor system” to determine who is eligible of being in this category.  

Those conditions are identified by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and are determined to pose the most severe risk when compounded with COVID-19. These health conditions are listed here, and they are as follows: 

  • Current cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD, also called emphysema
  • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system)
  • Severe obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Down Syndrome
  • Sickle cell disease

Here is who has been previously announced as eligible for the vaccine:

On Feb. 12, state officials announced Vermonters 70 and older can sign up to receive the vaccine starting Tuesday, Feb. 16.

On Jan. 27, the vaccine was made available to Vermonters who are 75 and older.

On Dec. 15, the vaccine was made available to health care workers, and residents and staff of long-term care facilities. 

More from VPR: Reporter Debrief: 'A Big Day' As Vt.'s First Public Vaccine Clinics Open Wednesday

The state says shots are in limited supply, and so they're first being administered to individuals that are determined at highest at risk of death if they contract COVID-19, or who are most critical in COVID-19 response and providing direct care for others.

How will you know when it's your turn to get vaccinated?

While the Health Department is not keeping a list of people who are eligible for the vaccine, it says it is working with health care practices, pharmacies, employers and local news media to announce the next group who can sign up for COVID-19 shots.

What is the state doing to ensure equity and accessibility?

The Vermont Department of Health COVID FAQ has a section on what assistance is available during your vaccine appointment.

Financial accessibility:

The COVID-19 vaccine is free. Vermonters do not need health insurance to obtain the vaccine. 

Physical accessibility:

If you don't have a car or access to a ride to your vaccine appointment the state says free public transit is made available. These rides are coordinated through Vermont Public Transportation Association, and volunteer drivers use cars, vans, or buses. For more details on free transportation, click here.

You can find contact information for your local public transportation provider through Vermont Public Transportation Association website here

The Department of Health is hoping to provide in-home vaccinations to homebound Vermonters through Emergency Medical Services. As of Feb. 4, these in-home visits haven't started yet. Find more information here

Vaccine clinics are handicapped-accessible, and wheelchairs are made available at Health Department vaccination sites and hospitals.

Language accessibility:

The state says language interpreters can be arranged at Health Department sites, usually by phone or video conference through a computer at the clinic. Interpreters can be requested through public health workers on site. Burlington and Winooski will have some in-person interpreters, too, based on demand.

Vermont Multilingual Coronavirus Taskforce Videos: Facts About the COVID-19 Vaccine

If you do not have access to the internet, a computer, or a smartphone to make an appointment online, you can call the hotline to make an appointment: 855-722-7878. Again, the hotline is open Monday through Friday from 8:15 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. and Saturday to Sunday 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. 

This hotline also has access to translators if needed.

Racial/ethnic, housing status and immigration status equity:

As quoted from Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine:

“We are working with community organizations and other partners to make sure people who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, including Black, Indigenous and people of color, have equitable access to the vaccine.”

Levine has also said in the governor's twice-weekly COVID-19 press briefings that undocumented residents and people experiencing homelessess are included in the state’s prioritized “vulnerable” population.

More from Vermont Edition: Is Vermont Doing Enough To Address Racial Inequities In Its Vaccine Program?

Is the vaccine safe?

According to the CDC, the COVID-19 vaccine is safe:

"COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Millions of people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines, and these vaccines have undergone the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. This monitoring includes using both established and new safety monitoring systems to make sure that COVID-19 vaccines are safe."

Click here to find more information on the CDC website about the vaccine's safety and effectiveness. 

The two vaccines available in Vermont are listed below. Click on either vaccine for more details.

1. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

2. The Moderna vaccine

Here are the ingredients in both COVID-19 vaccines, as listed by the Department of Health:

"The ingredients in the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are similar to what is found in other vaccines – both contain the mRNA protein, fats, salts, and sugars. They do not have any fetal tissue, animal products, eggs, gelatin, latex, or preservatives in them."

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines, which, according to the CDC, work like this:

“[They] contain material from the virus that causes COVID-19 that gives our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if we are infected in the future.”

Both vaccines requires two doses. The first and second shot of the vaccine are identical to one another: in quantity and in ingredients. However, you cannot mix manufacturers of these doses (ex: first shot from Moderna, and second shot from Pfizer).

Is the vaccine safe for pregnant people?

Here’s what the Department of Health has to say about people who are pregnant receiving the vaccine:

"Based on how mRNA vaccines work, experts believe they are unlikely to pose a specific risk for people who are pregnant. However, the actual risks of mRNA vaccines to the pregnant person and their fetus are unknown because these vaccines have not been studied in pregnant people. The CDC and other professional organizations recommend that you consult with your health care provider. mRNA vaccines are not thought to be a risk to the breastfed baby."

You can find more information here.  

Is the vaccine safe for children?

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is authorized for people 16 and older, and the Moderna vaccine is authorized for people 18 and older.

The vaccine has not been fully tested for young children. Since children’s immune systems are different at different ages, vaccine studies will need to be repeated with children to determine their safety. Learn more about this here.

Is the vaccine mandated?

There is no requirement from the state or federal government to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and state health officials told Vermont Edition that employers cannot require vaccination until the manufacturers apply for and receive full approval from the FDA.

How will my life change after getting vaccinated?

Do I still need to wear a mask?

National health experts say yes — you should definitely still wear a mask and socially distance, even after you are fully vaccinated.

Here are two reasons why: 

1. It takes several weeks for the effectiveness of the vaccine to build up. Therefore, it is important to continue following the safety guidelines to continue to protect yourself from infection.

NPR's health blog states the Pfizer vaccine is 52% effective after the first shot, and 95% effective a week after the second shot. The Moderna vaccine is 51% effective two weeks after the first shot, and 94% effective two weeks after the second dose. Neither of those are 100% effective. Therefore, it is still possible (though not likely) to contract COVID-19 even after getting a vaccine. 

2. It might be possible to spread the infection once you've been vaccinated.

According to the Vermont Department of Health

"We don’t yet know if you can unknowingly spread the virus after you get vaccinated. Until enough people are vaccinated and we know more, we need to follow all safety guidelines like wearing masks, keeping 6 feet apart and washing our hands."

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine has said if a vaccinated person comes into contact with COVID-19, they are less likely to develop symptoms, but it is unclear if the vaccine will prevent an individual from transmitting the virus to others.

Levine noted as more people are vaccinated, more data will be collected about if COVID-19 can be spread by vaccinated individuals. In the meantime, even vaccinated people must continue mask wearing and social distancing for the safety of the community.

Can I travel?

Starting Feb. 23, if travelers have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19, they do not have to quarantine after their arrival in Vermont. Fully vaccinated means that an individual has been administered both shots, and has waited a full two weeks after their second shot is administered. 

About this change in policy, Gov. Phil Scott said the following:

“This change is very narrow, focusing on travel. And I know there will be a lot of questions and some head scratching about why this is allowed, while other things are not. But the fact is, every step we make comes with questions, and we're taking it one step at a time to lessen the confusion.”

Scott said the ban on multi-family household gatherings still applies for people who are vaccinated; however, as more of the population gets vaccinated, the state is reevaluating that policy.

When will I be able to stop social distancing? 

On the day Vermont administered its first COVID-19 vaccine, Levine said Vermonters must reach community (or herd) immunity before socializing like they did prior to the pandemic. Levine defined community immunity as at least 75% of Vermonters accepting the vaccine and becoming vaccinated. 

Levine said the combination of warm weather, increased vaccination and vigilant social distancing measures in the coming months will suppress the virus.

Vermont's COVID-19 vaccine timeline

Feb. 23

Gov. Phil Scott says that fully-vaccinated Vermonters can travel without quarantine. "Fully-vaccinated" is defined as having been administered both shots, and waiting two weeks after the second shot.

About 8% of Vermonters have been fully vaccinated, and around 15% have been administered at least one shot.

Feb. 12

Vermonters 70 and older can now sign up to receive their COVID-19 vaccine.

Feb. 9

Health Commissioner Mark Levine says the state has offered vaccinations to people of color under age 75 who showed up at the clinics with older family members.

“We have learned from our experience through the state’s pandemic response that it makes good public health sense to allow household members facing language and access barriers, to get information and services at the same time, rather than duplicate these services later on,” Levine said.

Levine said about a hundred members of the BIPOC community have been vaccinated at clinics offering language translation services.

Feb. 2

More than 55,000 Vermonters have now received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, which is nearly 10% of eligible Vermonters who can receive the vaccine, according to Secretary of Human Services Mike Smith.

Some 14% of Vermonters aged 75 and over have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The Scott administration says it plans to begin administering the vaccine to homebound seniors by the end of this week.

Jan. 25

Vermonters 75 and older can now sign up to receive their COVID-19 vaccine. The Department of Health is asking state residents to visit healthvermont.gov/MyVaccine. If Vermonters can't get online or need to speak to someone in a language other than English, beginning at noon today they can call  855-722-7878.

The phone line will be open Monday-Friday 8:15 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m.- 3 p.m.

Jan. 15

Officials announced Vermonters 75 and older can receive the COVID-19 vaccine beginning Jan. 27.

Jan. 5

Vermont has received 30,000 doses of vaccine so far, and state officials also announced that they decided who would receive inoculations next: frontline workers, older Vermonters, and those with high-risk conditions.

Dec. 31

State officials said the federal government has delayed shipping COVID-19 vaccines. While Vermont expected to receive 11,000 doses, it's instead gotten 7,800.

The last day of the year also marked the day the first veterans received vaccinations at the White River Junction VA.

Dec. 21

The first long-term care facility residents and staff received COVID-19 vaccinations.

Dec. 15

Another 1,950 Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine doses arrived, and the University of Vermont Medical Center administered the state’s first COVID-19 vaccine.

Dec. 14

Vermont receives first 1,950 Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine doses, 975 to University of Vermont Medical Center, 975 to Vermont’s State Vaccine Depot for distribution to the state’s hospitals.

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