Taylor Wellington, a registered nurse with Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, in Brattleboro, Vt., gets a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine shot ready before administering during a vaccination clinic at the Brattleboro Fire Department's Central Station on Thursday, May 13, 2021. Credit: Kristopher Radder / The Brattleboro Reformer via AP

The percentage of eligible Vermonters who have received at least the first dose of a vaccine against COVID-19 continues to lead the country, officials said Tuesday.

The latest statistics released during the regular weekly update on the state’s response to the virus showed that 82.4 percent of the population 12 and older has been vaccinated, the top figure in the country.

Among other categories the state leads in are the percentage of the eligible population that is fully vaccinated, 73.1 percent, and the percent of the full population, including those under age 12 who are not eligible for vaccination, that is fully vaccinated, 64.6 percent.

The continued spread of COVID-19 in Vermont and across the country is largely among the unvaccinated.

“Being the most vaccinated in the country has built up of a line of defense for Vermont, but as we’ve said, we’re not resting on our laurels,” Gov. Phil Scott said during the Tuesday virus briefing. “There is still time to protect yourself if you haven’t done so yet. There is still a shot waiting for you.”

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said Vermonters and the nation have witnessed what is probably the most successful population-wide mass vaccination campaign in the nation’s history.

“Our success with vaccinations here in Vermont has made our state the safest place to be in the country and arguably the world,” Levine said.

He said state officials have been getting phone calls and correspondence from officials from around the country and the world “asking for the secret of our success.”

When asked what those callers were told, Scott said there was no single answer as to why Vermonters have done so well.

“They have been willing from the start to do the right thing and not every state has that,” Scott said.

He said the reluctance of many people across the country to do more to confront the COVID-19 pandemic started with the Trump Administration where there was a hesitancy to communicate the threat posed by the pandemic. It started with anti-masking efforts and thoughts that the pandemic would be over quickly. It “went downhill from there.”

“We didn’t have that here in this state and I owe that to the people of the state of Vermont,” Scott said.

“We maintained our consistency. Again, trying to be honest, when we saw things were going in the wrong direction, we made changes,” he said.

Vermont has now gone 26 days in a row with new case numbers in single digits and the percentage decrease in case numbers from May to June, 84 percent, was the greatest drop since the pandemic began, according to Michael Pieciak, the commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation who monitors COVID-19 statistics for the state.

Wilson Ring, The Associated Press