State directs more vaccine to clinics serving minorities

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By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

State officials are applying lessons learned from the uneven rollout of COVID-19 testing to close similar racial and ethnic gaps in the unfolding vaccination program.

The steps being taken now include directing an additional 10% of the state’s allocation of coronavirus vaccines for clinics in cities and towns with large Black and Latino populations.

The additional doses are going to 34 cities and towns that scored 75% or higher on the Social Vulnerability Index that federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses to identify communities vulnerable to disease outbreak and most likely to need support during a public health emergency.

This list includes Waterbury and the state’s four other cities with populations of more than 100,000 people.

“The communities that are 75% or above on the SVI represents about 60% of the state’s population,” said Josh Geballe, Gov. Ned Lamont’s chief operating officer.

He said three-quarters of the state’s allocation of vaccines were being allotted to vaccine providers in the 34 cities and towns at 75% or higher before the 10% bump that was announced Wednesday.

“What we are really trying to do is make sure it is as convenient as it is possible for those people in those high SVI towns to have access to vaccine,” Geballe said.

He said differences in vaccination coverage among the most vulnerable cities and towns emerged because some organized faster and more aggressively, and the state is now helping others catch up.

At this time, the state is receiving 69,000 first doses of the currently available Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Both vaccines require two doses to be effective against the virus.

Lamont on Thursday reported that 580,432 doses of vaccine have been administered since mid-December, including 417,644 first doses and 162,788 second doses.

Vaccines just became available to an estimated 353,000 people age 65 to 74. Lamont said 13% of this age group have been vaccinated, and the vaccination rate among people age 75 and older increased to 69%.

A NEW ANALYSIS CONFIRMED racial and ethnic disparities in vaccination administration in Connecticut.

The state Department of Public Health report was based on new and limited data that white people received 56.1% of all doses of vaccines administered through Feb. 3.

In contrast, the DPH found 5.2% of doses were given to those identifying as Hispanic, 3.4% of doses were given to those identifying as Black and 2.6% of doses were given to those identifying as Asian.

Residents age 75 and older were the first group to be vaccinated after critical hospital workers, residents and staff of nursing homes, and emergency medical responders, including police officers and firefighters.

As of Feb. 3, nearly 2% of residents age 75 years and older who have received the vaccine were Black and 2.3% were Hispanic, while 59.7% were white, according to the data.

Slightly more than 1% were Asian and 6.2% were mixed race.

This was the first data that DPH released on COVID-19 vaccination by race and ethnicity, and, while there are no plans to regularly release this data, Geballe said there will be periodic updates.

Geballe also said state officials are now leveraging lessons learned from the rollout of COVID-19 testing and reaching out to the same community partners that helped close testing gaps in minority and other hard-to-reach communities earlier.

“We’re partnering with many of the exact same people that we worked with to scale up our very successful testing program now on vaccines,” he said.

THE POSITIVE TEST RATE reached a 3 1/2 month low of 2.3% on Thursday as only 1,003 out of 43,240 reported test results came back positive.

“That is a trend line that has gone on now for some weeks, and that is extraordinarily positive good news,” Lamont said. “New York is at 3.5%. they’re beginning to go down as well. So, this is happening nationwide. Let’s make sure this time it is permanent. Let’s make sure the vaccines make it permanent.”

He said the hospitalization rate is also continuing to decline in another encouraging sign. He said hospital capacity is ample at this time.

There was a net decrease 39 patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 to 731 statewide, including 252 patients in New Haven Country, 207 in Fairfield County, and 191 in Hartford County.

There were 28 more coronavirus-linked deaths reported Thursday, bringing the death toll 7,354. There now have been 2,224 deaths reported in Hartford County, 1,982 in Fairfield County, and 1,852 in New Haven County.

There have coronavirus-associated deaths in every age group, ranging from two deaths of children under age 9 to 4,281 deaths of adults age 80 and older.

The state reported there have been 2,617 cases in Naugatuck, 655 in Prospect and 418 in Beacon Falls since last March.

There have been 83 coronavirus-associated deaths in Naugatuck, six in Beacon Falls and two in Prospect.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this report.