Residents 75 and older can sign up for COVID vaccine 

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By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

HARTFORD — State residents age 75 and older can register for appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations starting Monday.

State officials had no counts Thursday on the number of sign-ups and appointments scheduled, but an estimated 277,000 people fall in this age category that is the first group eligible to be immunized in the second phase of the state vaccination program.

Acting Public Health Commissioner Deirde S. Gifford said a high percentage of this population is expected to choose to get vaccinated.

Appointments are being scheduled through health care providers, a state web portal, or a dedicated telephone line.

Health care providers that are participating in the vaccination program will contact some patients to set up appointments. A list of participating providers is available online at ct.gov/covidvaccine. People are urged not to contact their physician or health care provider directly for appointments.

Residents age 75 and older can also make appointments online. A form can be accessed online at ct.gov/covidvaccine that allows individuals to schedule an appointment through the web-based Vaccine Administration Management System.

Anyone without internet access can also schedule an appointment by calling the COVID Vaccine Appointment Assistance Line at 877-918-2224. This alternative was designed for people who have limited access to technology, or who have language, disability, or other barriers that could prevent them using other self-scheduling options.

The appointment line will take calls on Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It will offer a call-back option when all contact specialists are busy serving other callers. Calls will be returned as soon as possible with the goal of same-day response.

People are being asked to schedule only one appointment and just for themselves.

Gifford and Gov. Ned Lamont urged patience because of the anticipated demand for the vaccine among residents age 75 and older.

“It won’t be overnight. It won’t be immediate. You’re going to have to be patient,” Lamont said.

THERE WERE NO ANSWERS on when the others being included in Phase 1b of the vaccination distribution program will be able to get inoculated, or even when a timetable might be announced.

Lamont and Gifford said the order is still being worked out, but the governor announced that he was going to accept an advisory panel’s recommendations for other vulnerable populations and groups of essential workers to cover in this vaccination round.

“We understand and appreciate that people want to know when they’re going to get the vaccine. It’s going to be awhile,” Gifford said.

Vaccines are now being administered to direct care providers and other critical workers in health care settings, residents and staff of long-term care facilities, and first responders at risk of exposure. Phase 1a is expected to be completed in February.

The allocation subcommittee of the Governor’s COVID-19 Advisory Group proposed Phase 1b include staff and residents of congregate settings, including prisons, homeless shelters and group homes.

The subcommittee also recommended seniors age 65 to 74, and anyone age 16 to 74 with one more underlying medical conditions that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined create a greater risk of severe illness.

An estimated pool of 1.3 million people are eligible to be vaccinated in Phase 1b. In contrast, the state’s population is 3.5 million.

Gifford again stressed the supply of vaccines from the federal government will largely dictate the pace of vaccinations. At this time, the state is receiving on average 47,000 doses a week of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines that require two doses to be effective against the coronavirus.

“Demand is far outstripping supply,” Lamont said.

According to the last numbers, 171,035 vaccine doses have been administered since Phase 1a kicked off on Dec. 14 — 154,994 first doses and 16,041 second doses. There is a 21-day waiting period between the first and second doses for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and a 28-day waiting period for the Moderna vaccine.

At that rate, it would take until May to finish vaccinating Phase 1b and start Phase 1c that will include the remaining critical workers and vulnerable groups. The rest of the public might not be vaccinated until the fall.

INFECTION, HOSPITALIZATION AND DEATH RATES are continuing to fluctuate from day to day.

“The numbers are bouncing around a little bit,” Lamont said.

There were 968 new cases of COVID-19 reported Thursday out of 22,171 new test results received since the previous day’s report of 3,529 new cases out of 56,600 molecular and antigen tests.

The daily rate of positive tests dropped from 6.2% on Wednesday to 4.4% on Thursday, but the Tuesday rate was 10.7%.

There were 17 additional coronavirus-linked deaths reported Thursday, down from the 87 fatalities recorded on Wednesday. There now have been 6,553 deaths since the first Connecticut cases were reported early last March.

Hospitalizations decreased for a second day. There was a net decline of 30 patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 to 1,118 statewide. This followed Wednesday’s slight decrease of six patients.

The state reported Thursday there have been 2,225 cases in Naugatuck since last March, an increase of eight from Wednesday. There have been 555 cases in Prospect and 344 in Beacon Falls, increases of one in each town since Wednesday.

State health officials reported no new coronavirus-associated deaths in Naugatuck, Beacon Falls and Prospect since Wednesday. There have been 74 coronavirus-associated deaths in Naugatuck, five in Beacon Falls and one in Prospect since last March, according to state data.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this report.