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Connecticut’s Vaccine Supply to Grow, Over-55 Group Overwhelms with Demand [Updated]

Gov. Ned Lamont speaks during a press briefing Monday. Screenshot

The West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District has clinics scheduled this week for public and non-public school teachers and staff, and professional childcare providers will also be incorporated into the school clinics, the health director said. [Updated]

By Hugh McQuaid,CTNewsJunkie.com

Ronni Newton, We-Ha.com, contributed to this report.

With some newly-eligible residents receiving vaccination appointments stretching into April, Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday he was confident that most people over 55 years old who wanted a shot would get one in the next three weeks.

The state lowered its age threshold for COVID vaccine eligibility to 55 Monday, giving around 500,000 people their first opportunity to book an appointment for a shot. Several health care system websites crashed under the strain. Many found no available appointments and some of those who were able to make appointments reported dates stretching past mid-April.

Despite those reports, the governor said when the rush settles, most would be vaccinated in the next three weeks.

“It’s going to take a week, 10 days before you can get everything settled out and everybody gets there but I think everybody that wants one will probably be able to get their vaccine – their first shot – over the course of the next three weeks,” he said.

Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer, said that more vaccination slots will become available as time goes on. Many providers did not have a full picture Monday of what doses they would have available in the coming weeks. Pharmacy providers CVS and Walgreens were scheduling appointments about a week in advance. Meanwhile, the state announced that it expects to receive more than 39,000 doses of the newly-approved Johnson & Johnson this week.

“If someone has an appointment booked up in, say, April – if you like that appointment and you want to keep it, great. I think the message is, there’s going to be a lot more appointments coming online in the next several days and weeks between now and March 22. So there will probably be opportunities to improve your slot if you want to,” Geballe said. He also asked that any resident who managed to find a preferable vaccination appointment cancel their original appointment to free up space for others.

The state also began making appointments at dedicated clinics for educators and child care workers Monday, which adds another 160,000 eligible residents to the new phase of the rollout.

West Hartford Public Schools will hold its first vaccination clinic the afternoon of Friday, March 5, Superintendent Tom Moore said. He told the Board of Education Tuesday night that the Health District has received a shipment of 725 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that will be allocated to West Hartford Public Schools employees at clinics this Friday and Saturday. That shipment allows an additional 500 more vaccination appointment slots to be added for the district than originally planned.

“The good news is that more than half of our staff will be vaccinated at the end of this weekend. And completely.” Moore said Tuesday. The J&J vaccine requires just one dose.

Moore, and the teachers, are really excited about it. Vaccination clinics will continue throughout March, he said.

Aimee Krauss, director of the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District, said a closed clinic has been scheduled Thursday, March 4 in West Hartford for non-public school teachers and staff.

The Health District supervises the non-public school nursing program, and those nurses have been involved in setting up the clinics.

Professional childcare providers are also eligible to be vaccinated, Krauss said, and she reached out last week to request rosters of their employees so the Health District could enter them into the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS). Some childcare providers already uploaded their rosters themselves.

Based upon the available dosage allocations, Krauss said childcare providers would be accommodated at the clinics the Health District is operating for the public and non-public school employees. Additional clinics will be scheduled on the weekends as well, she said.

All childcare providers who are currently licensed by the state’s Office of Early Childhood qualify for vaccination, Krauss said.

While school staff are being asked to received their vaccines at the closed clinics, Krauss said that childcare providers, who will not have a dedicated clinic, are able to schedule their vaccines directly through VAMS.

Krauss said she has been advised that the Health District will be receiving a shipment of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine, but she doesn’t want to plan a large clinic to administer it until that’s a certainty.

During the press conference, Lamont said Monday’s rush for appointments would have been more severe had he not chosen to ignore Centers for Disease Control guidelines calling for the phase to include people with comorbidities and other essential workers.

“You’ve got about 500,000 people that want to get vaccinated and I know a number of them were waiting around at 12:01 this morning to try and do it online. And that’s why we wanted to narrow the cohort compared to what could have been a much bigger group of people,” he said.

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As of Monday, more than 627,000 residents had received at least their first shot. Another 336,155 had gotten both. With more than 19% of the state’s population getting at least their first injection, Lamont said Connecticut was outpacing the national average by about 4%.

“That saves lives. That keeps people out of the hospital. That stops the spread – as you know we continue to look at those variants, but stops the spread, gives us a better chance to keep our schools open – our schools are more likely to be open than anybody in the region,” he said.

Lamont also said that administering vaccinations faster will also assist with equitable distribution. “Speed also has to do with simplicity and simplicity has a lot to do with equity. It means nobody can cheat the system,” he said. “By categorizing by age, that prioritizes public health.” He said there are no plans to make exceptions or change the allocation plan.

Geballe said there would have been two to three times more people vying for appointments on Monday had the state not used an age-based system.

Screenshot

The governor said he would be making announcements Thursday about easing COVID restrictions on restaurants, retailers, and personal services.

He also expects to make an announcement Thursday about easing of travel restrictions.

Republished with permission from CTNewsJunkie.com, all rights reserved.

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