By Paul Hughes, Republican-American
HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont is establishing a new advisory committee to help craft a COVID-19 vaccination plan, including determining which groups of people should be inoculated first in Connecticut.
Acting Public Health Commissioner Deidre S. Gifford and Dr. Reginald J. Eadie, president and CEO of Trinity Health of New England, will lead the vaccination planning group, Lamont said Monday.
He said the membership will include state legislators representing the four House and Senate caucuses, public health and medical professionals, state agency officials, labor representatives and advocates for the most affected communities.
While no date was set Monday, the Governor’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group is expected to convene its first meeting in early October, and all of its meetings will be public.
ONE OF THE FIRST ORDERS of business will be determining a distribution strategy because initially when vaccines do become available there will not be enough doses for a large-scale vaccination program, Eadie and Gifford said.
“What we understand one of the responsibilities to be is answering the question how do we triage, or how do we rank the distribution as we understand the amount that comes into the state,” Eadie said. “We will be finalizing our plans in the very near future.”
Gifford said the Department of Public Health will be submitting a preliminary plan to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in mid-October along with other state health departments.
She said she expects the COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group will have the final plan completed in the late fall.
Another top priority will be building up public confidence in the safety and the efficacy of vaccines that are approved for distribution, including convincing vaccine skeptics.
The advisory group is going to be meeting in public because transparency is going to be critical to getting state residents to trust how the distribution strategies are devised and carried out, Gifford and Eadie said.
“I hope we have transparency from the vaccine developers as to the safety and efficacy data that they are producing. I think there will be a lot of demand for that,” Gifford said.
LAMONT ANNOUNCED the establishment of the Governor’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group after participating in a conference call with the White House Coronavirus Task Force that Vice President Mike Pence is leading.
“I liked the tone of the message that I heard today that we are not trying to rush out a vaccine, leave the politics at the door, let’s focus on getting a safe and effective vaccine available as soon as we can, let’s work together in terms of how we distribute this,” he said.
If all goes well with the various clinical trials underway, Lamont said the expectation of the White House Coronavirus Task Force is that vaccines will be approved before the end of the year, and then become initially available for distribution in April.
He also struck a note of caution about vaccine development during Monday’s news briefing.
“We don’t know whether any of these vaccines are going to work yet,” Lamont said. “So, I love the questions about, hey, is it going to be widely available, is that March or April, but we’re still in trials. You have got to see efficacy. You have to see that it works and it works safely so there are still a couple of speed bumps along the road.”
THE INFECTION RATE and death rate continued to increase over the weekend, while the hospitalization rate declined.
Public health officials reported 497 new cases of COVID-19 out of 45,595 test results that were received since Friday. There now have been 56,024 cases reported in Connecticut since early March.
The percentage of positive results was 1.1% based on the testing statistics that were reported Monday.
There were three more coronavirus-associated deaths reported over the weekend. This brought the death toll to 4,495.
There was a net decline of nine patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 to 68 statewide.
Day-to-day changes in COVID-19 statistics reflect newly reported cases, deaths and tests that occurred over the last several days to week. All data in the daily reports are preliminary, and data for previous dates are updated as new reports are received and data errors are corrected.
THE NAUGATUCK VALLEY HEALTH DISTRICT reported Monday there have been 434 confirmed coronavirus cases in Naugatuck — an increase of five since the last update Sept. 18. Friday’s update. The number of cases in Beacon Falls, 59, was unchanged.
There have been 37 confirmed deaths associated with coronavirus and four probable deaths in Naugatuck, according to the health district, and none in Beacon Falls. The numbers did not change from the previous update.
The Chesprocott Health District’s weekly update reported Sept. 18 showed there have been 88 cases in Prospect, an increase of one from the previous week’s report, and no coronavirus-related deaths in town.
Elio Gugliotti contributed to this report.