Health Care

Madeleine Kunin: Vaccinated Vermonters trusted science and government

Note: This story is more than a week old. Given how quickly the Covid-19 pandemic is evolving, we recommend that you read our latest coverage here.

Soldiers from the Vermont National Guard filled syringes at a folding table inside the Spaulding High School gym during a vaccine clinic in Barre on May 19, 2021. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

“I’m so proud to be a Vermonter,” my friend said to me, as we were walking along a tree-lined dirt road shortly after a summer rain that made the air smell sweet.

“I’m so grateful I live here,” he added, using his hands to underline his point.

What is there to be proud of, besides Ben & Jerry’s and maple syrup?

We live in a state that has the highest Covid-19 vaccination rate in the nation: 80%. And we’re aiming for more.

Even socialist Scandinavian countries could not match us. How has this state, with no mandates, achieved such dramatic results? When we are shown a map of the United States, indicating vaccination rates state by state, little Vermont, way up in the northeast corner, stands out. We even outdo New Hampshire.

Southern states are stuck at one-third or below in the number of their people vaccinated. For example, Mississippi was at 28 percent at the time of this writing, and Tennessee at 33.6%. 

What did we do that was different from them? I believe one difference that makes Vermonters willing to be vaccinated is that we trust two institutions: science and government. Much credit for that trust goes to Gov. Phil Scott, Health Commissioner Mark Levine and the commissioner of the Agency of Human Services, Mike Smith.

Their twice-weekly press conferences answered every possible question from a gaggle of reporters, including those from radio and TV stations and small weeklies. They answered questions for one and one-half hours. These three government officials were patient and honest. The result was that Vermonters received accurate and reliable information that did much to inspire confidence in the vaccine.

Plus, our brave little state thrives on having a sense of community. We’re small. Size is a big advantage. We know our leaders. We may even meet one of them downtown and say hello, now that Covid 19 restrictions are loosening up. 

Most of us have learned that, when we get vaccinated, we not only protect ourselves, but we also may keep our neighbors from getting sick. That’s why I agree with my friend. I love that I live in Vermont, a state where we care about one another. That’s what has helped us trust good science and our government and told us that we should get vaccinated to get the pandemic under control.

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Madeleine May Kunin

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