Demand outpacing supply as vaccination effort gains steam

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By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

The state set a single-day high of 35,000 COVID-19 vaccine shots administered March 5 as Connecticut’s vaccination program continues to accelerate.

Gov. Ned Lamont estimated March 8 that vaccine providers could vaccinate up to five times as many more state residents a week if the supply of vaccines from the federal government could keep up with the demand in the state.

Lamont and top aides confirmed that there will be no deliveries of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine for this week.

The state Department of Public Health advised vaccine providers last week not to expect any shipments based on federal guidance.

Instead, the state and its vaccination partners are expecting to receive 137,000 first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines this week. Each brand requires two doses to be effective against the coronavirus.

Despite the delay in the J&J vaccine deliveries, Lamont and aides said the vaccination program remains on schedule to open next to 45- to 54-year-olds on March 22. The tentative timetable anticipates advancing to a new age group every three weeks until reaching the 34-and-under population on May 3.

State health officials reported 25% of 55- to 64-year-olds have received at least a first dose of the either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines since vaccinations for this age group started March 1.

In addition, the vaccination rate for people 75 and older reached 75%, and it was 64% for 65- to 74-year-olds. All three age groups include members who were vaccinated earlier in the vaccination rollout.

In all, 773,280 first doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been administered since mid-December, and 389,402 people have received their second doses, which is equivalent to 26% of the state’s population over age 16.

An additional 11,000 doses of the J&J vaccine were given out through last weekend.

“We had over 35,000 vaccines administered last Friday. That was a record for the state of Connecticut in one day. So, we’re really cranking right now,” said Josh Geballe, the governor’s chief operating officer.

NEW FEDERAL GUIDELINES came out Monday that said fully vaccinated people can gather with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or social distancing.

Lamont and aides urged fully and partially vaccinated Connecticut residents follow restraint following the release of the long-awaited guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concerning personal interactions outside of heath care settings.

The governor said he has no near-term intentions to loosen coronavirus-restriction beyond the plan announced last week to lift capacity limits on businesses and attendance caps on social and recreational gatherings on March 19.

Mask, social distancing and other current mandates will remain in place through April 20 when the governor’s latest emergency declarations expire.

“The CDC guidance said, look, if you’re hanging around with a lot of other people who have also been vaccinated you don’t necessarily have to wear a mask in a private setting, which is good common sense I think,” Lamont said.

He cautioned that vaccination rates could take up to two months to reach a point where a broad cross-section of the state is fully or partially immunized against COVID-19.

Lamont said he loses sleep over reports like ones from over the weekend of state police breaking up a party of 150 to 200 college-aged revelers in a Mansfield residence near the University of Connecticut campus.

“I know the frustration. It is like a tight coil. Everybody is ready to spring at this point, and I’m just trying to cool things down a little bit longer,” he said.

Over the weekend, state health officials reported 2,066 new cases of COVID-19 and 21 additional coronavirus-linked deaths. There was a net decrease of 40 patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The state reported Monday there have been 2,835 cases in Naugatuck, 728 in Prospect and 454 in Beacon Falls since last March. There have been 87 coronavirus-related deaths in Naugatuck, six in Beacon Falls and three in Prospect, according to state data.

LAMONT DEFENDED the vaccination rollout after three legal aid programs filed a federal complaint Monday alleging the revised age-based system discriminates against residents of color.

Attorneys from Connecticut Legal Services, the New Haven Legal Assistance Association and Greater Hartford Legal Aid asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through its Office for Civil Rights to direct the plan be revised to give priority to essential workers and people with pre-existing health conditions that put them at increased risk from COVID-19.

Lamont said the allegation is false, and he argued the age-based system is simpler, more equitable and less subject to manipulation than the approaches that other states have followed.

“Ours is based upon public health,” he said.

Lamont said the state has also taken steps to increase vaccine allocations and vaccination rates for Black, Latino and other vulnerable and under-served communities.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this report.