University of Vermont Medical Center Administers COVID-19 Vaccine to first Vermonters

UVM Health Network Affiliates and Hospitals Across Vermont Working Quickly to Begin Phased Effort to Vaccinate Health Care Workers

BURLINGTON (VT) – Today, several frontline staff at the University of Vermont Medical Center were the first Vermonters to receive the approved Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. With the sooner than anticipated arrival of the vaccine in Vermont, UVM Medical Center, its UVM Health Network affiliates, and hospitals across the state are working as quickly as possible to ramp up vaccination clinics ahead of schedule. Initial vaccination efforts will continue in a phased manner for health care workers employed at the hospital and in the community, as well as first responders considered to be at higher risk for exposure.

Those receiving vaccinations first have been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Vermont COVID-19 advisory committees as well as UVM Health Network clinical leaders and medical ethics professionals.

“We are extremely proud to play a role in this historic and unprecedented effort to vaccinate the global population from COVID-19 illness. We take this responsibility seriously, and have worked with government and community partners to develop a vaccination plan that is based on science and equity,” said John Brumsted, MD, president and CEO of the UVM Health Network. “We will not rest until those in our communities can receive the vaccine. We know this will take some time, but we plan to deliver doses of the vaccine as efficiently as supply allows.”

Cindy Wamsganz, an emergency department nurse at UVM Medical Center, became the first Vermonter to receive the COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday. She looks forward to all of her colleagues receiving the vaccine.

“I am humbled and honored to be asked to be the first health care worker in the state to receive this vaccine. I am fearful of the virus, not the vaccine, and believe it is our pathway to protection and living life again. Knowledge is power and this vaccine is developed by many brilliant people that have given us the power to beat this virus,” said Wamsganz. “I’m thankful our amazing team will soon have protection from the virus and we can end this difficult year on a positive note.”

Initial doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are extremely limited. Additional doses are expected in the coming weeks. Other manufacturers, like Moderna, Inc., may receive emergency use authorization from the FDA as early as this week, increasing supply for health care workers and long term care facility residents. Other vaccines are also in Phase 3 research, including the version developed by AstraZeneca, with a trial being conducted by UVM Medical Center and the Vaccine Testing Center at the University of Vermont.

A more broad public vaccination effort will follow the first phase and be based on a similar risk identification path from the CDC and include exposure risk, transmission potential and health criteria. Our UVM Health Network hospitals will be administering the vaccine more widely in our communities in the coming months. This is an important responsibility and undertaking, and we are working with state leaders in New York and Vermont to learn more about plans for distributing the vaccine, and our participation.

“This has been a challenging year for frontline health care workers and all Americans. We are now in a position to begin getting the COVID-19 pandemic under control. We are tackling complex logistics to begin delivering the vaccine to people in Vermont,” said UVM Medical Center President and COO Steve Leffler, MD. “We have worked closely with state and federal partners to ensure that we are ready to distribute the vaccine as quickly as supplies allow.”

The public health and science organizations we are working with have provided criteria for determining which individuals in society will be included in the first phase of vaccinations. Our plan is based on information shared by various health authorities to develop guidelines aimed at effectively and equitably prioritizing vaccine distribution among UVM Health Network employees. We will not receive enough vaccine doses in the first distribution for all frontline or patient-facing staff, so eligibility is based on highest risk.

The recommendations, developed by the States of Vermont and New York and the CDC using criteria developed by the prestigious National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, may change as additional guidance and information on supplies are updated. As of now, these criteria include:

  • Likelihood of exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19
  • Likelihood of developing severe COVID-19 if exposed
  • Likelihood of transmitting SARS-CoV-2
  • Importance to prevention of acute societal collapse or “Organizational Risk” if illness occurs

The UVM Health Network will continue to provide more information about vaccine efforts as details emerge.

About The University of Vermont Health Network

The University of Vermont Health Network is an integrated system serving the residents of Vermont and northern New York with a shared mission: working together, we improve people’s lives.  The partners are:

Our 4,000 health care professionals are driven to provide high-quality, cost-efficient care as close to home as possible. Strengthened by our academic connection to the University of Vermont, each of our affiliates remains committed to its local community by providing compassionate, personal care shaped by the latest medical advances and delivered by highly skilled experts.

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