Priority planned for high risk as vaccine eligibility opens
With everyone age 16 and older eligible Thursday to begin signing up for COVID-19 vaccination appointments, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday that people with certain medical conditions that put that put them at high risk, including people with intellectual disabilities, will have “priority access” for shots.
Some hospitals are planning to hold dedicated vaccination clinics, others are reaching out to patients with reserved appointments while some patients will likely get vaccinated during their normal medical appointments at the hospital, said Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer, who expects the group will include about 10,000 people.
The list of conditions include sickle cell disease, end stage renal disease on dialysis, active cancer treatment and solid organ transplant.
“These are the conditions that the chief medical officers at the hospitals felt were most worthy of prioritization over this next week or two,” said Geballe. As in previous stages of Connecticut’s mostly age-based vaccine rollout, state officials are expecting there will be an initial rush to sign up for appointments when the system opens up to everyone age 16 and older.
Currently, people 45 years and older are allowed to get vaccinated.
Some hospitals will be getting additional doses of vaccine while others will prioritize what they already have. The move comes as more vaccine is arriving in the state. About 240,000 first doses are anticipated to arrive this week from the federal government.
Meanwhile, there are about 9,000 people with intellectual disabilities who live in congregate settings and may not be vaccinated yet. Beginning on Friday, about 20 special clinics will be set up for them over the next two weeks. Invitations will be sent to families with loved ones in the Department of Developmental Disabilities system.
Also on Monday, Lamont announced the state is planning special clinics with the Pfizer vaccine for students 16 years and older. Those will happen at traditionally underserved school districts from April 19 to May 7, and at other interested districts in May. Also, Johnson & Johnson clinics will be held in early May at colleges and universities before most students leave for the summer break.
Geballe urged families to hold off on signing up their older teens in the early days of this final phase of the rollout.
“I think if you’re the parent of an older teenager, about 16, or if you’re in your 20s, you’re perfectly healthy, please give it a week. You’re going to get in your turn very soon. But let’s let people in their 40s or people in these other conditions get appointments first,” he said. “That’s good advice.”
Lamont’s office said Monday that 41% of all adults over the age of 16 in Connecticut have received at least one dose.
In other coronavirus related news:
BY THE NUMBERS:
Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases in Connecticut has increased by 467.4, an increase of 62.4%, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins.
Since Friday, the number of hospitalizations for COVID-19 increased by 42, to a total of 498. Meanwhile, the number of COVID-associated deaths increased by 18, to a total of 7,883.
Geballe said the good news is the state is seeing “far less” people age 65 and older being hospitalized for COVID-19, which he attributed to the state’s high vaccination rates. But he said younger people need to be careful.
“People need to remember you can still get very severe COVID even in your 20s, 30s and 40s,” he said. “You’re not invincible.”
FEMA MOBILE CLINIC
Staff inside the new mobile COVID-19 vaccination unit from the Federal Emergency Management Agent began administering doses Monday in Bridgeport, the first of a 60-day effort to reach as many people as possible living in Connecticut’s socially vulnerable neighborhoods and to improve vaccination rates in targeted municipalities.
About 200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were expected to be administered on at Beardsley Zoo. The state’s largest city, Bridgeport currently has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Connecticut. Officials plan to ramp up that amount to about 400 doses a day, ultimately vaccinating about 3,400 people in Bridgeport over the next 10 days as the mobile unit visits five locations, including a public housing community.
Ultimately, the FEMA van is expected to visit 17 different locations in Connecticut over the 60-day period. After Bridgeport, it’s next scheduled to be parked at the New Haven Green. Other communities include Danbury, East Hartford, Hartford, Killingly, Meriden, Middletown, New Britain, New London, North Canaan, Norwalk, Norwich, Stamford, Waterbury, Windham and Winsted.
Hartford Healthcare, UConn Health, Griffin Health and Trinity Health of New England will provide staffing for the FEMA mobile unit while the Connecticut National Guard and municipal employees will provide non-clinical staffing. The unit is equipped to administer all three FDA-approved vaccines.
U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn. said the state’s congressional delegation, which submitted the grant request application for the mobile unit through a competitive process, plans to seek a second van to come to Connecticut for another 60 days.
Hayes said the van will be able to serve urban communities where there are language barriers as well as rural farming communities where the nearest health care facility is many miles away. At the same time, she predicted it will “help restore confidence” because families will be able to get vaccinated together.