Sophie Conners 3

Sophie Conners, a 105-year-old resident of Colchester, receives the COVID-19 vaccine from Jacob Burns, RN in Essex.

MONTPELIER — State officials are advising that anyone who received their second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines should get a third, as well.

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer vaccine for people ages 16 and older, eliminating its emergency authorization status. Mike Smith, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Human Services, said at a state press conference Tuesday the federal government is recommending to the general population because they provide increased protection.

Children aged 12 to 15 are still only approved for emergency use and for a third dose in immunocompromised positions, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said.

Those boosters are tentatively scheduled to begin the week of Sept. 20 Smith said. Now through October, vaccination clinics will be held at schools and other pop-up events.

Chittenden County recorded 29 new cases on Tuesday and 570 over the past two weeks. 

Government agencies have not yet advised a booster for those who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but Gov. Phil Scott cited Dr. Anthony Fauci’s statement that a second dose of the J&J vaccine is inevitable, and so is a vaccine approved for students aged 5-12. Smith said more information on the J&J vaccine is in the process of being gathered at the federal level.

For the fall, school districts are allowed to plan with masks on students and teachers, deputy secretary of the Vermont State Agency of Education Heather Bouchey said at the conference. Local officials, however, appear to be awaiting more guidance.

The COVID-19 vaccine is not logged along with other required vaccines that are required for students to attend school if they do not have a religious exemption.

Although there are new COVID cases regionally, the rate of spread has begun to plateau, Mike Piecak, commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation, said.

Hospitals and mental health centers are seeing increasing numbers of patients because of issues that possibly arose pre-COVID and patients waited to seek assistance, Smith said. The Department of Mental Health is increasing its staff, and centers around the state are increasing their bed count to meet the public need.

A third dose of the Pfizer vaccine provides four times as much protection as two doses, according to data from the Israeli Health Ministry Panel of Vaccine Experts that Levine cited. He added that the protection was five to six times higher against hospitalization and serious illness.

The booster shots will occur in two phases, Smith said. The first phase includes residents with weakened immune systems who received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The second phase will be open to the general public.

“We expect to start out with healthcare workers and those in long-term care facilities,” Smith said.

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