More than 1 million state residents fully vaccinated

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By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

Connecticut has now fully vaccinated more than 1 million of its nearly 3.6 million people against COVID-19 in another pandemic milestone that was surpassed this week.

Gov. Ned Lamont also reported Thursday that 55% of state residents age 16 and older have received a first dose of vaccine since the state vaccination program was launched in mid-December.

To date, more than 2.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered.

“Overall, a million of our folks have been fully vaccinated. That’s great,” Lamont said, and then added, “That means, remember, that there are two and a half million who have not been vaccinated, which is why I have to ask you to be careful a little bit longer.”

He said vaccination rates are not slowing despite a 109,000-dose drop in the weekly delivery of vaccines this week due to a pause in the use of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. He said vaccination appointments remain available.

Yet, Lamont also acknowledged significant racial and ethnic disparities continue persist in the vaccine roll out, and vaccination rates also vary greatly town-to-town and region-to-region.

NEARLY ONE-THIRD OF THE WHITE population is full vaccinated, while just 13% of the Latino population and 10% of the Black population have either received a shot of the single-dose J&J vaccine, or a second shot of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.

The latest data on vaccinations by race and ethnicity also show 51.5% of whites have received a first vaccine dose, compared to 28% of Blacks and 27% of Latinos.

Lamont said seeing racial and ethnic disparities continue despite the state’s ongoing effort to close the gaps is concerning to him.

“It shows we have to work harder at it. There is no question about it,” he said.

The state and vaccine providers again fell short of the latest weekly goal for administering vaccines to people living in 50 high-risk postal codes that cover 17 towns and cities, including Waterbury, Naugatuck and Winsted.

Part of the state’s distribution strategy is deploying a fleet of 35 mobile vaccine vans from Griffin Hospital to the targeted communities. The state is also making use of a mobile clinic from the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

The Griffin vans and mobile FEMA unit had been using the single-shot J&J vaccine, but Geballe and Lamont said they are now switching to the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

Geballe said arrangements are being made to schedule second shots for people receiving vaccines from the mobile clinics. Lamont said FEMA is also going to send a second mobile unit that will assist in that effort. At this time, 13 of the 35 Griffin vans are on the road, but the rest of the fleet is expected to be deployed through April.

THE SPREAD OF VARIANTS of the coronavirus in Connecticut accelerated over the last week, as 614 additional cases involving mutations of the virus were reported.

The latest weekly report documented 296 more cases of the more contagious B.1.1.7 strain that was first identified in the United Kingdom last fall. There now have been 945 cases since the first infections in Connecticut were reported in early January.

In all, testing has uncovered 3,581 cases involving SARS-CoV-2 variants that U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has deemed of high concern or high interest. There is no data on the number of variant-related hospitalizations or deaths.

There now have been 328,000 cases of COVID-19 reported in Connecticut.

State health officials on Thursday reported 702 new cases of COVID-19 out of 34,388 test results that had been received through Wednesday. Lamont noted that the daily positive test rate of 2% was the lowest in weeks.

There was a net decline of 13 patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 to 505 statewide. There were six more coronavirus-related deaths reported, bringing the death toll to 7,990.

The state reported there have been 3,336 cases in Naugatuck, 857 in Prospect and 525 in Beacon Falls since last March.

There have been 88 coronavirus-associated deaths in Naugatuck, six in Beacon Falls and five in Prospect, according to state officials.

The state Department of Public Health placed 132 of the 169 towns and cities, including beacon Falls, Naugatuck and Prospect, on the state’s highest COVID-19 alert status on Thursday for having case rates greater than 15 per 100,000 population on a two-week rolling average.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this article.