Reporter Debrief: 'A Big Day' As Vt.'s First Public Vaccine Clinics Open Wednesday
The state of Vermont opened its first COVID-19 vaccine clinics for the public Wednesday, giving shots to Vermonters aged 75 and older.
The Integrated Arts Academy in Burlington was one of the 25 locations where shots were distributed, and things largely went smoothly. That comes after some residents had a rocky time accessing the state’s website and call center for vaccine appointments.
Still, as of Wednesday afternoon, about 30,000 Vermonters had signed up to get a shot. The state says that’s of about 42,000 eligible residents in that age band.
VPR’s Henry Epp spoke with reporter Liam Elder-Connors, who visited the vaccination clinic in Burlington. Their conversation below has been edited for length and clarity.
Henry Epp: Can you tell us, what was the scene like there?
Liam Elder-Connors: Yeah, so, you know, I walked down the street, and there was just a line of folks lined up outside of the school waiting to get inside for their vaccine. And inside, there was another line, for people to wait in to actually get the vaccine.
Our colleague Elodie Reed, a digital producer, actually went inside the clinic to get pictures of some people getting the shots. And she said that they were happening inside a gymnasium. So people are sitting under basketball hoops getting the shot. And then they would stay inside for another 15 minutes while staff there monitored them to make sure they didn't have any reactions to the shot.
I met 80-year-old Otto Teply from Williston after he got the shot. And he says it all went very smoothly.
Otto: “They were very efficient, and everybody was polite and nice and nobody got bitter. It was great.” Liam: “And you felt OK after the shot? No weird feelings or anything?” Otto: “I've had mosquito bites that hurt worse than that.”
You know, it went smoothly for Otto, though when I got there, some people had been in line for a while, and said that it had been pretty busy in the morning and things got a little backed up. But it seemed like they were starting to get things back on track in the hour or so that I was there.
So were the people that you talked to enthusiastic about getting vaccinated today?
Yeah, people are really excited about getting the shot. It's the first time, as you mentioned, people in the general public have been able to get the vaccine.
You know, several of the people there I talked to were saying that they're really looking forward to getting to see grandkids again down the line once that becomes, you know, once they can kind of mix in households again. And now that they're vaccinated, they'll just make it all that much safer.
You know, I talked with Joan Vogel, who is an 80-year-old from Colchester, and she was just very happy to be there today.
Joan: “I'm doing good. I'm excited. It's a big day. I put a big ‘V’ on my calendar.”
And so did anyone say whether they had trouble signing up to get in line for this vaccine today?
No. I mean, some people said that they did it themselves, and it was a little tedious, and there was a lot of things to fill out. But they got through. Others had family members do it for them. But none of them seemed to have any real strong feelings about the sign-up process. They all just seemed pretty grateful to be there and getting the vaccine.
A lot of folks, 75 and older, obviously can make it to a vaccine site like the one that you went to today. But others may be homebound. What has the state said about the plan for those who can't make it out to one of these sites at a school or other place in the community?
Yeah, that's a really good point. These clinics that are being set up all around the state are for people who can actually get to the clinics. And the sign-ups going on right now through the state's website are for those clinics specifically, not for folks who are stuck at home.
The state has said that they're going to work with home health care agencies to reach out to homebound Vermonters who are 75 years and older, and develop plans to have EMTs or other health care providers go specifically to those houses and those individuals to get them vaccinated. The people who are homebound and in that situation, the state is asking them to wait to be contacted by a health care provider to work out those details, and not to register through the state's clinic sign-up.
And finally, Liam, this is the first day that vaccines are happening. What will you be watching for next in this rollout process?
Well, even though things in Burlington seemed to go pretty well, in Springfield, Springfield Hospital actually had an issue today where 860 doses of the vaccine were stored at a temperature that was too warm, apparently. The hospital's temperature readings said that it was cold enough, but the state had a reading that said it wasn't. And so the hospital actually had to cancel clinic that they had scheduled for today.
So I'm definitely to be keeping an eye on, you know, issues like that, if we see them going forward, sort of what happened at Springfield and what the state's doing to try to remedy issues that might point to. And then just generally keeping an eye on the distribution of the vaccine.
The state has talked a lot about how they want to make sure there's an equitable distribution to demographic groups that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. So just seeing how the state plans to follow through with what they've been talking about in terms of equity of distribution.
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