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Connecticut Moves Up Its Vaccine Rollout

Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public

Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday that he is accelerating the timetable for Connecticut’s coronavirus vaccine rollout, opening eligibility to people 45 to 54 on Friday, and then to everyone 44 and younger beginning April 5.

Under the previous schedule, residents aged 45 to 54 would have been eligible starting March 22, and people 35 and older would have been allowed to sign up for an appointment beginning April 12. Those 16 to 34 would have had to wait until May 3.

Max Reiss, a spokesman for Lamont, said expected increases in weekly vaccine supply are behind the state’s decision to speed up the timetable. Connecticut is expected to receive 131,000 first doses this week; 141,000 next week; 178,000 during the week of March 29; and 195,000 doses during the week of April 5.

“The federal government has indicated that we could expect potentially as much as 200,000 vaccines per week by the end of March,” Reiss said. “We are very soon going to reach a point where supply and demand are going to cross, and there will be more supply than there is demand. The infrastructure is there, now the supply is going to be there. This gives us certainty moving forward.”

The Lamont administration last month decided the remainder of Connecticut’s vaccine rollout would be prioritized based on age, with tiered schedules for people in different age groups. He also arranged special clinics for teachers, day care workers and other educational staff.

The move was a departure from recommendations by the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the state’s vaccine advisory panel, both of which had suggested people 16 and older with underlying medical conditions and essential workers such as grocery store employees should be next in line. Those workers and advocates for people with comorbidities have expressed anger and frustration at the decision.

Reiss said Monday that the state is directing medical providers to help reach young people with underlying health issues, though he did not elaborate on the guidance.

Asked if vaccine slots would be reserved for people with underlying conditions, Josh Geballe, the state’s chief operating officer, said the decision would be left up to the providers, along with determining who qualifies as being in a high-risk group.

“We’re really going to leave that with our health care providers, our hospitals, our community health centers. They are all getting significant allocations of the vaccine already; we’ll look to make sure they have adequate [supply], and then they can run whatever process is most aligned with their patient population and their vaccine administration sites,” he said.

Geballe said the process of arranging appointments for residents with comorbidities would probably only take place during the first half of April. By the end of that month, he said, most people who want a vaccine in Connecticut will have access to one. More details are expected in the coming weeks.

Saad Omer, director of the Yale Institute for Global Health, has criticized the state’s age-based rollout for leaving behind people with comorbidities.

But Omer said Monday that he looks favorably on the new proposal to prioritize those with underlying health issues in age-based eligibility groups.

“It’s a reasonable middle ground, depending on how it’s implemented,” he said.

Residents 55 and older, front-line health care workers and education and day care staff are already eligible to receive the COVID-19 shot here.

Lamont on Monday urged patience as the next two rounds of eligibility open.

“There will be a bit of a rush,” he said. “If you’re relatively healthy, if you maybe don’t have to go to work every day – you can telecommute – if perhaps you think you’ve had some sort of mild infection in the past, maybe don’t sign up the very first few days; give those who maybe have a little more need [the opportunity] a little earlier.

“We are going to have plenty of vaccines over the course of the next month. I think you’re going to find everybody has vaccines and appointments available to them.”

Another 477,000 people will become eligible to receive the vaccine on Friday, though state officials said they expect only about 60% of that 45-to-54 age group to get the shot. Roughly 85,000 residents in that age range have already been vaccinated because they work in a school, day care center, hospital or other health care facility.

On April 5, an additional 1.3 million people will be eligible. About 160,000 residents in the 16-to-44 age group have received a vaccine because of their profession, and the Lamont administration is estimating that only 60% of the remaining residents will get the vaccine.

As of Monday, Connecticut had administered 918,741 first doses; 496,006 people had been fully vaccinated, according to state figures. Thirty-one percent of residents 16 and older had received a first dose.

CT Mirror Reporter Kasturi Pananjady contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 Connecticut Public Radio

Jenna Carlesso // CTMirror.org
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