State launches next vaccine phase

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By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

HARTFORD — The final age group of residents 16 to 44 years old are now able to schedule appointments to get COVID-19 vaccine shots.

Gov. Ned Lamont on March 31 declared the state vaccination program ready to proceed to this next phase four and a half months after its mid-December launch.

The expansion comes as the infection rate has been ticking up with the biggest increases among younger people who will now be eligible to get vaccinated.

“With the recent increase in cases in Connecticut, it is crucial that everyone who wants a vaccine, gets one as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Deidre S. Gifford, the acting public health commissioner.

The state Department of Public Health on March 31 reported 832 new COVID-19 cases out of 22,237 new test results that were received March 30. There now have been 310,888 reported cases in the state’s outbreak.

The state on March 31 reported 13 new cases in Naugatuck, three in Beacon Falls and one in Prospect from March 30. There have been 3,118 cases in Naugatuck, 799 in Prospect and 499 in Beacon Falls since last March.

Lamont said the vaccination program is making a difference even though the number of COVID-19 cases per capita is among the worst in the country.

“You know, it has been a little choppy. Our trends have been edging up here in the Northeast region. I think you know that I was getting a little edgy myself, but I’m really happy to see our infection rate is back down to below 4%,” he said during a news conference outside St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center.

Lamont noted there was only one additional coronavirus-associated death in the March 31 report.

There now have been 7,886 deaths attributed to COVID-19 or complications from the viral disease.

There have been 88 coronavirus-associated deaths in Naugatuck, six in Beacon Falls and four in Prospect, according to state officials. State data updated March 31 showed one less coronavirus-associated death in Naugatuck than the update on March 30.

“As everybody says, we’re not out of the woods yet, but nor are we lost.” Lamont said. “I think we know where we’re going. I think we know what we have got to do. If we can hang together for a few more months, I think we’re going to really find that the bulk of us have gotten vaccinated, and we’re getting back to a new normal.”

Connecticut is ranked second in the nation in percentage of population that has received at least one vaccine dose. More than 680,000 residents are fully vaccinated, meaning they have received one shot of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or a second shot of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.

In the new vaccination phase, individuals who are 16 and 17 should sign up only for a clinic offering the Pfizer vaccine because it is the only one at this point to receive federal approval for those ages.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this article.