The Scott administration said Friday if someone gets the coronavirus and recovers from it, that will not count as immunity for the purposes of travel or visiting other households.
The current rule in Vermont, updated about a week ago, says if residents get at least two shots of the coronavirus vaccine followed by a 14-day waiting period, they may legally travel without quarantining for two weeks and are permitted to visit other households.
During a regularly scheduled media briefing, the governor was asked if getting the virus would count as immunity for travel and socializing purposes. The answer provided by Health Commissioner Mark Levine was that only a vaccine will count as immunity.
“There is a degree of natural immunity that people will have who have had coronavirus. … The question would be the durability of that immunity and what would go beyond several months and persist longer into the future,” Levine said. “The recommendations currently are for anyone who has had COVID-19 should still get vaccinated because we want to augment that immunity as much as possible.”
Levine said new data from the United Kingdom indicates at least in some cases one shot would suffice. “Now this is only in the UK right now and it’s early data,” he said, adding that this policy is not currently recommended for the U.S.
Asked what scientific evidence proves the vaccine provides sufficient immunity to travel and see people, Levine replied, “Well the guidance currently is … is remember the 90-day period [after getting vaccinated] we believe that people are fine in terms of interacting, not having to quarantine if they come in contact with another case, etc. And we’re not certain beyond the 90 days after natural immunity if that will persist. We’re going with national guidance on that one for this point in time.”
Scott stepped in and reiterated that Vermont is following national policy.
“We’re just following CDC guidelines at this point,” he said.
Asked what studies the Centers for Disease Control is using for supporting those guidelines, Levine said to check with the CDC.
The vaccines currently available in Vermont are the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and another from Moderna. On Saturday, Scott announced that the Food and Drug Administration’s grant of emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine would help his administration “scale up our efforts, speed up our timeframes and broaden our eligibility faster.”
Current COVID-19 vaccines have encountered recent controversies. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told Dateline in December that he is not sure that his company’s vaccine prevents the spread of the coronavirus. “We’re not certain about that right now,” Bourla said.
The Moderna vaccine came under intense scrutiny in January when Major League Baseball legend Hank Aaron took the shot for a vaccine publicity campaign Jan. 5 and died 17 days later. Fulton County Medical Examiner’s office in Georgia said on Jan. 25 that the death was merely a coincidence, and that the star died of natural causes.
Scott noted during the media briefing that significant portions of the public in other states are rejecting shots. Vermont is currently awaiting the results of a survey of education-workers to gauge their willingness to take vaccines. Scott said future vaccine policy will be determined by both supply and demand.
Despite comments from both Scott and Levine that elderly people with existing conditions continue to be the ones most at risk, the administration continues to ask all Vermonters to keep restricting their lifestyles and economic activity.
“This is the time that we all need to double down,” Levine said. “We really will have a much better outcome coming out of this pandemic. We need to hold on a little longer and not let the politicization of things like masks or personal feelings interfere with what the science has told us.”
On a related subject regarding whether Vermont’s students should be learning in person or remotely, Scott said current data shows that young people in school settings are not a big culprit for spreading the coronavirus.
“We’re not seeing a great deal of impact for those who are in-person at this time throughout Vermont,” he said. “We’re not seeing a huge number of those impacted by the virus — that’s just a fact, that’s part of our data.”
Scott said at another point that the data on Vermont’s coronavirus deaths continue to trend mostly among the old and sick. He said 90 percent of the deaths in Vermont have been age 65 and over. He added that individuals with other underlying health conditions “are impacted as well.”
According to the Vermont Department of Health, 204 residents have died with the coronavirus. Deaths include deaths among confirmed and probable cases, as also noted on death certificates.