This week’s gubernatorial Covid briefing had a different feel to it. There was, dare I say it, a bit of hope in the air. Not because Gov. Phil Scott’s Covid policies are finally paying off, but because vaccination for children ages 5-11 will soon arrive to pull his fat out of the fire.
So that was the message, repeated ad nauseam. The children’s vaccine is coming! Any day now! Please get your kids jabbed ASAP!
The message was hammered home by guest presenter Dr. Rebecca Bell, president of the Vermont chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She delivered a thorough, well-supported endorsement of vaccines in general and the Covid shot in particular. The development and testing process, she said, had produced “safe and effective” vaccine regimens for children. For parents on the fence about kiddie jabs, she noted that the uncertainty isn’t with the vaccine; it’s with the virus.
The only downbeat note came from DFR Commissioner and Statistical Soothsayer Michael Pieciak, whose crystal ball was once again pretty damn foggy. “Things could potentially improve significantly,” he said, before adding “They could get worse as well.”
Scott and his minions laid out their plan to immediately vaccinate as many kids as possible. If federal approval came tonight, they said, vaccinations could start as soon as Thursday. (UPDATE: It appears that final approval will come tonight. The CDC’s vaccine advisory committee voted unanimously in favor; CDC director Rachelle Wolensky is expected to follow suit.)
There’s good reason for all the haste. Kiddie-vax may be the key to finally bringing down case counts to acceptable levels and, dare I say, actually turning the corner on the coronavirus.
That’s because children 5-11 have by far the highest per capita infection rate in Vermont. With vaccinations, that number should come down. Vaxxed kids will be less likely to get sick or spread the virus. That will make the overall picture look a fair bit better, and should ease the pressure on the public schools. And that might be enough for Scott to get his political mojo back.
Oh, and also, of course, we’d finally be making some progress on fighting the Delta variant after months of stubborn failure from Team Scott.
Let us not forget, should the governor start taking victory laps a month or so from now, that his Covid policy isn’t being proven right; it’s being rescued from outside. And those months of inflexibility led to dozens of avoidable deaths and thousands of unnecessary infections.
Now, an improvement in the case rate among children won’t necessarily fix our ongoing problem with hospitalization and death rates, since kids are less likely than Us Olds to get seriously ill. The other bit of not-good-news today is that the test positivity rate is back above 3% again.
So we’re not out of the woods by any means. And who knows what the winter will bring. But this is the best piece of news the Scott administration has gotten since the onset of the Delta variant in midsummer.