State updates timeline for vaccinations

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By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

HARTFORD — The estimated 353,000 state residents age 65 to 74 can expect to start lining up for their COVID-19 vaccine shots in early February based on an updated timeline.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced Tuesday this age cohort will be the next group in the community that will be vaccinated after residents age 75 and older.

Lamont and Dr. Deidre S. Gifford, the acting public health commissioner, continued to stress Tuesday the supply of vaccines from the federal government, and demand, will largely dictate the pace of distribution.

“Demand is still greatly exceeding supply. That is why we have to rank. We are prioritizing those most at risk, those most likely to suffer the worst consequences,” Lamont said. “We’ve got that prioritized based on age since that is easiest to administer and the most direct … and please be patient.”

There are an estimated 1.3 million to 1.4 million people eligible to be immunized in Phase 1b of the vaccination program that kicked off this week. The state is expecting to receive 45,000 doses of vaccine a week.

Vaccinations of the estimated 277,000 residents age 75 and older started Monday. Sign-ups began last Thursday. Appointments are being scheduled through health care providers, a state web portal, or a dedicated telephone line.

The 211 call center at the United Way has already taken 21,000 calls and booked 2,400 vaccination appointments, said Josh Geballe, the governor’s chief operating officer.

RESIDENTS AGE 65 TO 74 should be able to start scheduling appointments in early February, according to the tentative timetable provided Tuesday.

“I think this is going to take us another two weeks or so based on the uptake for people age 75 and above,” Lamont said. “That could accelerate if we got more vaccines from the federal government, but right now it looks like we will be able to open the lens and allow people 65 and above probably in a couple of weeks. We’ll give you a clearer indication on that in the next 10 days.”

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. The current Phase 1a is expected to be completed in February.

Lamont reported 220,820 doses of the currently available Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been administered in Phase 1a. Both vaccines require two doses to be effective against the coronavirus. There have been 196,753 first doses given out and 24,067 second doses.

The governor said Connecticut has administered 71% of the total doses it has received from the federal government.

THE AGE 65 AND OLDER COHORT will be vaccinated first as part of Phase 1b because they are most at risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.

“It is the right thing to do,” Lamont said.

He cited statistics that people age 65 and older represent 88% of coronavirus-linked deaths and more than half of all COVID-19 hospitalizations, while making up 18% of the state’s population of 3.5 million people.

“I think you can understand why this is going to be a really important priority for us,” Lamont said.

After people 65 and older, the next groups in line in Phase 1b are residents age 16 to 64 with identified health risks and eight categories of essential workers, including teachers and school staff, grocery store employees, first responders not included in Phase 1a, and manufacturing workers. The tentative timetable indicated these vaccinations will start in late February or March.

Meanwhile, vaccinations of staff and residents of such congregate settings as prisons, homeless shelters and group homes will be happening in parallel with the other groups in Phase 1b.

The schedule Tuesday showed a May start for the vaccinations of the remaining categories of essential workers that are being included in Phase 1c, and then the general public’s turn coming in June.

Lamont said an increase in federal vaccine shipments and the approval of additional COVID-19 vaccines could speed up the distribution schedule. He said a promising vaccine that Johnson & Johnson is developing requires only a single dose.

THE COVID-19 CASE COUNT continued to rise with 2,094 additional cases out of 37,033 new test results reported Tuesday.

The daily positive test rate worked out to nearly 5.7%, but Lamont said the rolling, seven-day average was 5.3%.

There were 1,141 patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 after a net increase of 27 patients on Monday between new admissions and discharges.

“That is about the same place that we have been for two or three months,” Lamont said. “So, as you know, that was a key metric for me making sure that we kept capacity there, that we were maintaining capacity at our hospitals.”

There were an additional 12 coronavirus-deaths reported Tuesday. The dozen newly reported fatalities brought the death toll to 6,682.

The state reported Tuesday there have been 2,321 cases in Naugatuck, 572 cases in Prospect and 366 in Beacon Falls since last March.

There have been 74 coronavirus-associated deaths in Naugatuck, four in Beacon Falls and one in Prospect since last March, according to state data. The number of deaths in the three municipalities has not increased for several days. The death toll in Beacon Falls dropped by one from a report issued last week. State officials have said the data released is preliminary and are subject to change.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this report.