Innkeepers are a busy bunch. To save you time, VLA attends Governor Scott’s Covid-19 Press Conferences and takes notes for you. Below is the summary from 4.13.21

During Tuesday’s press briefing, Governor Phil Scott and his administration officials provided an update on COVID-19 data and Johnson & Johnson (“J&J”) vaccine update.

Gov. Scott:
• Out of abundance of caution CDC and FDA recommend to pause J&J vaccinations due to 6 cases of very rare cases of blood clots (out of 6.8 million doses of J&J vaccines administered).
• The FDA and CDC will be further convening tomorrow to discuss and make recommendation to providers how to treat this.
• This pause will likely be a matter of days (not weeks).
• This week’s vaccine supply will be similar to last week’s (no J&J vaccine will be delivered).

Secretary Smith:
• In Vermont we will pause the J&J vaccines for the remainder of the week (about 4,000 appointments are cancelled this week). Those whose appointments get cancelled will be offered to reschedule for a later date (J&J or Pfizer or Moderna vaccine). Someone will reach out this week to those whose appointments got cancelled to reschedule.
• As of today, almost 50% of Vermonters received at least one dose.
• Yesterday, age group 30+ opened up for registration. More than 15,000 Vermonters in this age group made appointments as of this morning.
• Over 6,000 of BIPOC individuals made appointments.
• Northern state correctional facility came back with testing results – no inmate cases of COVID-19; Springfield facility has cases and those individuals have been isolated. 589 doses have been administered to the inmates, 313 refused vaccination.
• 264,300 people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in VT.

Dr. Levine:
• VT data:
o Number of people reported with cases is under 100 daily.
o 30 hospitalizations, 5 in ICU
o 233 deaths to date (since the beginning of pandemic)
• J&J update: this blood clotting clinical syndrome is in more unusual atypical places (not in legs, travelling to lungs) It’s in brain and gut. The treatment is not traditional. The 6 individuals (16 – 48 year olds, all women) experienced symptoms within 6 – 13 days of the J&J vaccine. In VT we received only a few reports (not blood clots) of non-serious symptoms (mild headaches, chills, fatigues – which are common). Advisory committee will be meeting tomorrow and make recommendations.
• Even though some of the data is starting to look more promising, people should not be disregarding the rules (like beach goers who are unmasked and don’t observe social distance requirements) since the younger Vermonters are still not vaccinated. We are all part of the larger community and need to wait until more people are vaccinated.
• Dr. Levine then listed 10 reasons (especially for younger people) if they need to find a reason to get vaccinated. He encouraged anyone who knows someone (no matter the age) who is unwilling to get a vaccine to find a reason to get it. Every person who choses to be vaccinated brings us closer to the end of pandemic.

Commissioner Pieciak:
• Improvement in COVID-19 data
• 23% drop in a 7-day rate
• Greatest decrease is in the 20-29 year-old age group. It’s a very good sign.
• VT leads the country in COVID-19 testing on per capita basis (over the past 30 days)
• Forecast: the cases should decrease as we move into May
• 91.6% of those age 65+ have been vaccinated
• VT is #7 in the country for percentage of population fully vaccinated.
• The pace of vaccinations remains strong. This week we vaccinated over 11,000 people in a single day.
• Survey shows that nearly 85% of Vermonters will probably get a vaccine (the highest in the country)
• 1 long-term care outbreak is active at this time.
• Rutland and Chittenden county cases are down from last week.
• Hospitalization rates increased by 6.42% this week.
• Northeast region – cases are down overall (NY and CT – improved, NH and ME – cases are on the rise).
• In US: MI, MN, FL, and NY metro area are still of concern.


Q: J&J development is making people lose faith in vaccines. Will people take a pause?
A: My confidence (Gov. Scott) increased after the conversation with the White House (only 6 cases out of 6.8 million).

Q: Do you feel that this recommendation (to pause) by the government is an overreaction?
A: No, I don’t. When it’s something that unique, we should respect that they want to pause.

Q: Do 16- and 17-year olds need parental permission to sign up for vaccine?
A: Yes, the parent needs to approve the appointment. Their only option is the Pfizer dose.

Q: Blood clots situation got women (especially of childbearing age) nervous.
A: If you are pregnant, or on birth control, there’s a possibility of risk. The other vaccines available have no association with blood clots.

Q: The former president (who has a significant following) is calling the pause “disservice” and FDA’s love/ favoritism for Pfizer vaccine. Should we disregard this?
A: Yes. This pause is for public safety.

Q: How far behind this pause will push the re-opening date for the state (July 4th)?
A: We are receiving more Pfizer and Moderna doses this week. We are hoping to stay on track. Once J&J vaccines are back on, we’ll make up for the pause and make more appointments available.

Q: Do you have a recommendation for folks who got J&J shot over the past few weeks (those who have family history of blood clots)?
A: The expectation is that you’ll do fine. We don’t know if family history has any connection. If you have a neurologic or gastrointestinal symptom, be aware of it. If it’s severe, make sure to attend to it.

Q: If the CDC puts a stop to J&J vaccine for extended period of time, how will it impact state re-opening (in terms of business guidelines)?
A: We don’t think there’s anything to worry about.

Q: What is going to happen to doses from appointments that got cancelled this week?
A: We are not disposing anything. The J&J vaccine can be stored at higher temperatures.

Q: News from Israel re: South African variant and its resistance to Pfizer vaccine.
A: It’s not a huge news surprise. South African and Brazilian variants can partially evade the vaccines. I would look at this info one way: the faster we can vaccinate more people, the better. The virus won’t have opportunity to continue to mutate.

Q: There are concerned Vermonters re: legislature that approved a measure that would exempt $10,200 in unemployment benefits while of the rest of the working public would not have the same exemption. As you are aware, many of these individuals collected more in unemployment income if they stayed working. Do you support this decision of the legislature, and if you do, why the working individuals wouldn’t get the same break?
A: The federal government decided to do this (that first $10,200 would be exempt), and we in VT decided to follow. We are trying to reduce a tax burden on the majority of VTers, we are trying to make VT more affordable for everyone.
Q: Will there be work search requirements re-instituted any time soon?
A: As soon as kids are back in school, we will be re-instituting the work search requirements (sometime between now and July).

Q: Travel guidance during school break.
A: Follow the same guidance when travelling as in the state. If not vaccinated, people would need to be tested within 3 days of return to VT.

Q: Were there any increased cases as a result of Easter gatherings?
A: We are not seeing any outbreaks associated with church services.

Q: Pausing J&J vaccine will create more hesitancy.
A: There’s been 562,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. The chances of getting ill from this virus are far greater than experiencing serious side effects from the vaccine. This pause is occurring partially to create more confidence, not hesitancy.

Q: The Department of Health only received a few complaints from J&J vaccine.
A: The complaints we received were “expected” and across all 3 vaccines.

Q: Is it possible that there are more than 6 “reported” cases? What if people don’t have insurance and don’t want to go to the doctor, or may not realize that they have the blood clots?
A: Yes, it’s correct. The 6 cases are the reported cases. That’s another reason why the CDC wanted to take a pause and see if the numbers are accurate.

Q: What’s the actual number of people who refuse J&J vaccine for religious or ethical reasons?
A: It’s hard to answer this. If there’s a person who prefers one vaccine to the other, they know at the time of registration what they are getting.

Q: Is there a number of wasted and spoiled doses?
A: We’ll look into this.

Q: If a young child is leaving the state and within 3 days the child’s test is back negative, can they return to school?
A: Yes, and they are not being asked to quarantine for these 3 days.

Q: AstraZeneca vaccine (which is not approved in the U.S.) has similar reaction as J&J vaccine.
A: Both AstraZeneca and J&J vaccines have a common vector – adenovirus. There’s something in this that’s causing clotting. AstraZeneca side effects are also 1 in a million (similar to J&J).

Q: Have there been any operational changes in the correctional facilities since the beginning of the pandemic?
A: Correctional facilities have learned a lot. Ability to test on almost every other day basis, and refining cohort measures are some of the changes.

Q: Someone in Berlin, VT who signed up for a Pfizer vaccine came to a vaccination site and received a J&J shot. How often does that happen?
A: I haven’t heard of this happen, we’ll track this down.

Q: For those whose appointments got cancelled this week, should they reschedule for another J&J shot? Is it safe?
A: After CDC and FDA provide more information (after their meeting tomorrow) I see this going one of two ways: 1) it’s a rare side effect and you can/should take the vaccine; or 2) certain people shouldn’t have it (there would be additional guidance which group of people).

Q: Should we be cancelling our appointments this week (for J&J vaccine)?
A: The state already cancelled them. You will be contacted by someone to reschedule.

Q: Does it make sense to look at the state re-opening regionally and re-open not entire state but communities with lower cases?
A: At this point we won’t change the course. Communities should play a part in following the guidance. There are still restrictions in place, and it’s up to individual establishments (bars, restaurants) to implement stricter measures if they prefer.

Q: Demographics of those hospitalized in March and April.
A: Those who are over 70, and in their 60s and 50s make up most of hospitalizations. In March we saw slight increase of people under 50 years old being hospitalized.

Q: Inaudible Q.
A: I didn’t see this one coming. CDC and FDA decided to take a more cautious route.

Q: Since a typical way to treat blood clots is not the right course for J&J side effects, was there any recommendation from the White House how to treat them?
A: No, they are meeting tomorrow to discuss this.

Q: Should people who are experiencing severe symptoms reach out to the healthcare providers?
A: Yes.

Q: Will you be getting any guidance out to the clinical community?
A: Yes, this evening we’ll be sending out an update to the entire clinical community.

Q: Will this meeting (ACIP) of CDC and FDA be open to the public?
A: It’s tomorrow from 1:30 – 4:30pm and there should be some kind of publicity. Generally they are public meetings.

Q: Inaudible Q.
A: Making VT more affordable, improving economy – all challenges we had before the pandemic.

Q: American Rescue Plan. Are you concerned that your proposal will be brushed aside?
A: We haven’t received any money or guidance yet. I am concerned with this bill. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We need to invest it wisely: infrastructure, broadband, climate change, economy.