‘The vaccines are a ray of hope’

Merideth Plumpton, RN, State of Vermont
Portrait headshot of Merideth Plumpton who is standing outside a COVID19 vaccination clinic.

Think about all the questions you’ve had about the COVID-19 vaccine since it first became available. Now, picture what it would be like if you were the one who had to find the answers.

Enter Merideth Plumpton, RN, nurse program coordinator for the State of Vermont’s immunization program. During the height of the pandemic, Plumpton would spend a portion of each day answering queries from physicians, members of the community and other health care professionals, so it was natural that when the team that was setting up the Champlain Valley Expo vaccination site had questions related to vaccines, Plumpton was its “go-to.”

Early on, the questions revolved around who would be eligible for the vaccine and when, not just at the Essex site, but all across Vermont. Who qualifies under what tier? Which health conditions would make a patient eligible? 

“There was so much that was unknown in the beginning,” Plumpton says. “People wanted answers, and we didn’t always have one – at least not right away.” 

Yet Jason Williams, network director of government and community relations for the UVM Health Network, and the person whose job it was to ensure that the Expo vaccine clinic aligned with directives from the State of Vermont, credits Plumpton’s quiet, steady approach with helping him get critical information to the team when it was needed most. 

Among the questions Plumpton answered: If someone delivers oxygen to a patient’s home, is that considered front-line work? (Yes.)  Do massage therapists qualify for Tier 1A? (No.) What about employees of the Red Cross? (It depends on their role.) 

“Merideth has been a constant lifeline for us as we navigated the complicated world of vaccine roll-out,” says Williams. “We have dealt with complex -- and often times, very emotional -- situations, day and night, seven days a week. Every email and phone call I made to Merideth was answered. Every complex situation was diffused. When we needed to move patients from one vaccination clinic to another for clinical reasons, she helped make that happen.”

This type of coordination was possible because of the centralization of all Vermont efforts through Vermont Department of Health, according to Plumpton. Fragmentation of efforts has caused hiccups in other states – stories of appointments cancelled at the last minute or people driving eight hours to get an appointment are commonplace. These kinds of issues have largely been avoided, says Plumpton.

Williams feels Plumpton deserves a lot of credit for that. “This work was incredibly difficult, but Merideth made it all go so much smoother by always being an email or a phone call away,” he says. “None of us had ever done this before, but you wouldn’t know that working with Merideth.”

Like so many, Plumpton sees the vaccines as a monumental step forward, and she is gratified to have played a key role in the effort to provide accurate information to all. 

“The vaccines are a ray of hope after so much uncertainty,” she says.

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