A small vaccination clinic being held in Waterbury Thursday is one of the reasons Vermont may have been the first state in the country to give at least one COVID-19 vaccine to 80% of the eligible population.
On Thursday, seven people were vaccinated at a pop-up clinic run by the Waterbury Ambulance Service outside the Waterbury headquarters of the solar energy company SunCommon.
“I’ve been going to get it for quite a while,” said Brad Lewis, 38, of Williston who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in a single shot Thursday with his employee Ben Smith, 28, of Bristol.
Lewis said his parents, who are all vaccinated, encouraged him to get vaccinated. “I was the weirdest man out there,” he said.
Smith said he wanted the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be delivered so he could visit a relative at the hospital. When asked why he hadn’t done it before he said he didn’t really have a reason.
“This was the closest,” he said when asked why he went to Waterbury.
Seven may not seem like much, but when small numbers are multiplied by scores or hundreds of opportunities across the state they add up to thousands of people protected against COVID-19. It was enough for Vermont to reach 80%, the threshold that was crossed on Sunday.
Gov. Phil Scott had promised to lift all COVID-19 state restrictions when the goal was achieved. On Monday, it lifted restrictions, and on Tuesday the state of emergency in place since the pandemic was allowed to end. But the state doesn’t stop at 80%, continuing with dozens of clinics just this week.
“They and the people who employ them have been critical to our ability to meet people where they are,” said Ben Truman, a spokesman for the Vermont Department of Health. “These and all vaccination options allow us to provide the widest range of vaccination opportunities, so that everyone can have their shot when and where it is convenient for them.”
Initially after vaccines started being shot earlier this year it was a challenge to make vaccination appointments. After eligibility expanded and people began to get vaccinated, the focus shifted to those who were not so determined. Then appointmentless clinics began to be offered in locations across the state, from all hospitals, to circuits, to farmers ’markets to waste transfer facilities.
On Thursday, the University of Vermont Health Network said it was liquidating three mass vaccination sites at the Champlain Valley Fair in Essex Junction and at the Berlin Mall. A clinic at Porter Medical Center in Middlebury closed last week.
The focus will then be on walk-in clinics available statewide, in pharmacies and primary care practices.
Mark Podgwaite, executive director of Waterbury Ambulance, said Thursday that the move to walk-in clinics began in early May.
“Most of the types we do now are these types,” he said referring to Lewis and Smith. “Males in this age group,” well, I’ll get them “a little business, or they need to be convinced or maybe they need a reason.”
After spending the morning at SunCommon, Podgwaite and his team headed to the Waterbury agricultural market. Of the seven people vaccinated, he said he was “very happy.”
“Three, five, tens are what made the difference,” he said.