Vermont will be using federal COVID-relief funds as incentives to get schools to push vaccinations on young children.
“I want to provide an update on our student vaccination incentive program that we talked about earlier this fall; we do expect to launch this program later this week,” Education Secretary Dan French said Tuesday in the governor’s weekly press conference. “Under these programs schools can qualify for grant awards as they achieve a high vaccination rate among their student body.”
French said money intended as federal emergency relief for COVID-19 will be used to fund this vaccination program.
“We designed this program, which is funded through federal COVID dollars, to not only encourage vaccination, but also to involve students more directly in the use of these grant funds at the school level,” he said. “We wanted to wait to apply for this program until 5-to-11 vaccination was fully up and running so the elementary schools could participate as well.”
In total, the state has received at least $5 billion in COVID-related federal aid since early 2020.
French said more information on the program would come later this week.
The push to vaccinate children comes as youth continue to face little to no statistical risk of dying from COVID-19, yet COVID cases are rising among the vaccinated. Vermont Health Department reports indicate that “to date there have been 202 hospitalizations and 85 deaths among the 7,622 cases of vaccine breakthrough.” The data is current as of Nov. 17.
According to health department data up to Nov. 3, young people ages 10 through 29 account for 31 percent of all COVID-19 testing — however, their number of deaths and hospitalizations is negligible. For ages 20-29 there are 5.4 hospitalizations per 10,000 Vermonters and 0.1 deaths per 10,000 Vermonters. Under the age of 20, there are no hospitalizations and no deaths on record.
Nonetheless, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation Michael Pieciak thanked Vermont parents for getting their children vaccinated at high rates.
“I really want to thank parents and caregivers for going out and getting their 5-to-11-year-olds vaccinated and protected. We want to obviously improve on that, but really, really a good start, and really critical because that age group continues to have about double the case rate of all the other age groups when you look at the most recent data,” he said.
The administration continues to highlight that a majority of the hospitalizations from COVID-19 have been among non-vaccinated populations. What is not known is how many vaccinated versus unvaccinated persons are getting tested for the virus on a regular basis.
On the subject of COVID-19 testing, Pieciak noted that when testing goes down, so does the number of cases.
“Just really quickly looking at campuses, you know testing was down, there was a half a week last week for most college campuses, just very few number of tests reported positive with 17 cases across campus,” he said.
Meanwhile Florida, known for having the least restrictive COVID regulations in the nation, is also the state seeing the least amount of COVID-related activity.
And some other countries, such as Sweden and Denmark, have halted the use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for people below the age of 18 after discovering possible cardiovascular side effects.