Despite the highest vaccination rate in the country, Vermont is grappling with a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases.
Infections have increased 55 percent in the past two weeks to an average of around 300 per day, according to a recent report from the state’s Department of Financial Regulation.
Yet 80.9 percent of the state’s total population received at least one dose – second only to Massachusetts – and 71.8 percent are fully vaccinated, more than anywhere else, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
So why is The Green Mountain State facing its worst Covid surge?
Experts say there are a number of reasons for this, including low vaccination rates among younger people, college students gathering for Halloween parties exposed, and not enough residents with natural immunity.
Vermont is the most heavily vaccinated state in the nation with 80.9% of the population vaccinated at one dose and 71.8% fully vaccinated, but cases are increasing (file image)
A new report finds that Covid cases have increased 55% to an average of around 300 per day in the past two weeks (picture).
One of the reasons for the increase in cases in Vermont is younger people who have not yet been vaccinated against Covid.
According to the report, residents under the age of 30 are the most responsible for new infections with the virus.
Children between the ages of zero and nine have the highest number of cases in this group, at 70 per 100,000.
However, this group has only recently become vaccinated, which means it remains to be seen whether pediatric vaccines will help contain COVID-19 cases.
The second highest case rate per capita is among 20 to 29 year olds and 10 to 19 year olds with around 65 cases per 100,000.
Teens 12-15 years old aren’t eligible for a May vaccination until May, while young adults are among the least likely to have vaccinations because they think they don’t need them.
In addition, the number of cases is highest in counties with low vaccination rates.
Experts say one of the reasons for the increase is the number of young people, such as adults between the ages of 20 and 29, who are not vaccinated
Unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated people have a 3.7 times higher case rate than the fully vaccinated population
Essex County, the least vaccinated Vermont county in the state, reports the highest number of weekly cases between November 2-8, at 1,022 cases per 100,000.
For comparison, Grand Isle County, the most vaccinated county, reported 160 per 100,000 people over the same period.
“We are seeing the effects of the highly contagious Delta variant in the United States and Vermont,” said Dr. Jan Carney, assistant dean of public health and health policy at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine, told ABC News.
“It really is so contagious that it hits pretty much any unvaccinated person.”
The report finds that 67 percent of hospital admissions and 64 percent of intensive care statistics were in the past seven days.
Another factor is changes in behavior, including more people gathering together and partying without a mask, such as Halloween
At Saint Michael’s College – three and a half miles northwest of Vermont – 89 students tested positive for Covid last week and the week before, according to the college’s dashboard.
Some experts say that due to the low number of cases in Vermont during the pandemic, not enough people have developed natural immunity to the virus, and less than two percent in Vermont have natural immunity (light purple) compared to other states (shaded in darker purple) .
Lorraine Sterritt, the college president, blamed Halloween parties for the outbreak.
“We were doing really well as a community until there were numerous Halloween parties at which students were exposed and in close contact,” she wrote in a letter on Sunday.
Additionally, some experts say there aren’t enough residents with natural immunity to prevent COVID-19 cases as well.
We are “a victim of our success because we kept the virus at such a low level throughout the pandemic,” said Dr. Mark Levine, Vermont health commissioner, on Tuesday.
CDC data shows Vermont has one of the lowest rates of residents who have developed natural immunity to Covid at less than two percent.