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Friday, Dec 1, 2023

New Covid-19 vaccination site opens in Middlebury to increase vaccine accessibility

The clinic is open during business hours through walk-in or by appointment.
The clinic is open during business hours through walk-in or by appointment.

A new Covid-19 vaccination site has opened up to the community as part of a state and national effort to increase vaccine accessibility. 

The new clinic is located at 55 Middle Road, behind the One Dollar Market. This location, run by Middlebury Regional Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and the Vermont Department of Health (DOH), opened on Monday, Nov. 1, and has already distributed many vaccines to the Middlebury community. Offering standard Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines for first time vaccinations as well as booster shots, this vaccination clinic hopes to further increase the numbers of vaccinated local residents as well as provide booster coverage. Covid-19 vaccines are readily available during business hours at the site. 

The campus population at Middlebury College is now fully eligible to receive a booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. Eligible populations, according to the Vermont DOH, include all Vermonters who are 18 years or older and received their Johnson & Johnson shot at least two months ago, as well as those between 18 and 64 who received their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna at least six months ago if they “feel at risk of getting Covid-19.” Those who live in communal settings — such as colleges and senior facilities — are considered to be at higher risk.

Kate Rothwell, director of the Middlebury Regional EMS, views this clinic as crucial to Vermont’s vaccination efforts. While appointments made on the Vermont DOH’s websites are encouraged, walk-in appointments are welcome.

“I think the convenience of both the location and that we’re open five days a week, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., is allowing more people the opportunity to get their boosters. We have seen an increase of walk-ins [appointments], over 100 a day,” Rothwell said. “We partnered with the Vermont Department of Health to get this site rolling, and I think it’s working very well.”

Rothwell also noted that this site is administering the Pfizer vaccine to children ages five to 11, for whom it was recently authorized. Vermont is one of the first states in the nation to administer pediatric vaccines.

“Friday and Saturday were our first [vaccines] to pediatric, 5 to 11 groups, and [of] the families that came in, some of the parents also realized they could get their boosters… So, it wound up being a family affair where everybody got their vaccine,” Rothwell said.

Recent FDA authorization of vaccines for children aged 5 to 11 has enabled the largest remaining at-risk group to get vaccinated. The vaccine dose for this age group is one-third as strong as the adult dosage, and the vaccines are being given on the same schedule for young children as for adults.  

The new clinic is relevant to Middlebury students who are currently seeking booster shots in the town of Middlebury soon. 

Rhys Glennon ’22, who is choosing to receive a booster shot of the J&J vaccine, is pleased with the widespread availability for Covid-19 vaccines in Vermont.

“As somebody who got the J&J vaccine, there seemed to be a consensus that the J&J vaccine was less effective,” Glennon said. “It seemed that you should get the J&J booster as soon as possible . . . As soon as that was on my radar, I looked and . . . there were a ton of slots open [for vaccination in Middlebury].” 

At 74%, the J&J vaccine’s overall efficacy is lower than that reported for Moderna and Pfizer, though studies of efficacy are ongoing and vary according to different variants of the virus. For more information about the efficacy of the three different Covid-19 vaccines, see the CDC’s “Different Covid-19 Vaccines” page.

The opening of the clinic also works to tackle obstacles of access to the vaccine that immunocompromised and marginalized populations face. Isabel Linhares ’22 is grateful that this new site streamlines various points of access for those who need vaccination. 

“One thing that I am glad to see with the new vaccine site is that they are not requiring you to present proof of being high risk or working a high risk job. When it comes to providing proof of a health condition, [proof] becomes a question of access to resources, a concrete diagnosis or access to medical care,” Linhares said. 

“You can still be high risk without having a piece of paper saying that you are high risk,” she said. “Not requiring that piece of paper means that more people will have… access to the booster shot that they need, regardless of whether they have access to other forms of treatment and diagnosis.”

Rothwell herself stated that the clinic does not require proof of medical conditions. She said that the organizers will ask those seeking vaccinations or booster shots to self-attest but not to provide medical documentation.

Despite confronting obstacles to booster shot availability over the summer, Linhares feels positively about the potential of this new vaccination clinic. She recalled that when she first tried to get a booster shot at Kinney Drugs, she was asked for proof of her qualifying health condition. When Linhares offered a note from her doctor, Kinney’s responded with a request for an actual prescription for the vaccine, resulting in her inability to get vaccinated that day.

With this new site at 55 Middle Road, Middlebury EMS and the Vermont DOH join a national mission to increase vaccination rates and protect individuals from Covid-19. The clinic is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. 

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