State moves up vaccination timeline

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By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

HARTFORD — Anyone age 16 or older will be able to start registering for COVID-19 vaccine appointments four days earlier than previously planned on April 1, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Thursday.

Lamont and members of his pandemic response team said increasing vaccination rates and vaccine deliveries are enabling the vaccination scheduled to be advanced a few days. They also said the supply will be adequate to complete vaccinating residents in the 45-to-54 age group in short order.

“I think this is the time for us to move forward on April 1,” Lamont said.

State officials are expecting to receive 200,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines a week from the federal government starting next week.

The expectation is that before the end of April there will be adequate doses available so that anyone in the state who wants to get vaccinated will be able to get the shots, said Josh Geballe, the governor’s chief operating officer.

There are about 1.3 million state residents between 16 and 44 years old, but only 600,000 are expected to get vaccinated between the approximately 200,000 members of this age group who have already received their vaccine shots and others who are not going to be immunized.

Geballe said only 28% of 45- to 54-year-olds have been vaccinated, but that is expected to reach close to 50% next week.

Lamont acknowledged that many residents 45 and older are still trying to schedule appointments, but he said the increased deliveries will open up scheduling opportunities.

“I’d say for the next week we have 200,000 more vaccines coming, so 45 to 54 here’s your opportunity,” he said.

Through Thursday, 57% of residents 45 and older have received at least one vaccine dose, and the percentage increases to 69% for residents 55 and older, and 80% of residents age 80 and older.

PROGRESS IS BEING MADE in reducing racial and ethnic disparities in the vaccination program, but there remain significant gaps.

“We’re narrowing that gap steadily. We are not there yet, and we still have more work to do, but making progress,” Geballe said.

State health officials advised members of the legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus earlier this week that 54% of the white population have received vaccine shots, compared to 38% of Blacks and 37% of Latinos.

Geballe also reported improvement in the state’s efforts to increase vaccination rates in 50 high-risk postal codes that are being targeted. These towns and cities include Ansonia, Derby, Naugatuck, Waterbury and Winsted.

The state’s goal in the last weekly reporting period was to distribute 26% of vaccines to the 50 targeted ZIP codes, and Geballe said vaccine providers achieved a 24% rate.

More than 1.6 million doses of vaccine have been administered in Connecticut, including 40,304 of the single-dose J&J vaccine. Some 619,154 residents are now fully vaccinated.

THE B.1.1.7 VARIANT OF THE CORONAVIRUS is continuing to spread in Connecticut, including in Naugatuck Valley towns and cities.

There now have been 379 cases of this more contagious strain that was first identified in the United Kingdom, including a state-leading 72 cases in New Haven, 30 cases in neighboring West Haven, 25 case in Waterbury and 24 cases in Wallingford.

Lamont said the U.K. variant is believed to represent up to 40% of new COVID-19 cases. There were 1,489 additional cases reported Thursday out of 38,887 newly received test results for a daily positive test rate of 3.9%.

State health officials reported a net increase of 22 patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 to 434 statewide.

An additional 10 coronavirus-associated deaths were also reported. There now have been 7,862 deaths attributed to COVID-19 or complications from the viral disease.

The state reported Thursday there have been 2,998 cases in Naugatuck, 771 in Prospect and 485 in Beacon Falls since last March.

There have been 88 coronavirus-associated deaths in Naugatuck, six in Beacon Falls and four in Prospect.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this report.