Vermont prepares to resume use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine


(Johnson & Johnson via AP)

(AP) — Vermont is preparing to resume the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine against COVID-19 next week if the federal government gives the green light, Gov. Phil Scott said Friday.

A federal government advisory panel is deliberating a possible link between J&J’s shot and a small number of vaccine recipients who developed highly unusual blood clots. New guidance is expected late Friday.

“Depending on the outcomes of the advisory committee, we could begin vaccinating as early as Tuesday in the Northeast Kingdom,” said Deputy Human Services Secretary Jenney Samuelson during the governor’s twice-weekly virus briefing. If the federal government issues a recommendation Friday evening, the state will likely have more information to share on its plans as early as Saturday morning, she said.

In the meantime, over half of all Vermonters aged 16 and older have started or completed vaccination with either the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson shots, and the number of new COVID-19 cases in Vermont has dropped by about 36% in the last two weeks, state officials said.

“Our data continues to move in a very positive direction as we are seeing more consecutive days where daily reported cases are under 100 now,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine at the governor’s twice-weekly virus briefing. He added that the state’s test positivity rate has dropped dramatically to 1.2%.

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As the end of the school year approaches, graduations, proms, and other end-of-school-year celebrations will be permitted but must follow certain safety requirements, Education Secretary Ed French said. Guidance is expected to be released later Friday afternoon.

“These celebrations are not only being permitted this year but also being strongly encouraged,” he said. “This has been a long a year for our students and our schools and we want to do whatever we can to ensure the school year ends in a safe and celebratory way.”

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