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Health care workers get 1st doses of coronavirus vaccine

December 15, 2020 GMT

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut received its first shipment of a coronavirus vaccine Monday, a batch of nearly 2,000 doses sent to Hartford Hospital where more than a dozen health care workers were vaccinated.

The shipment of the Pfizer vaccine is part of an initial order by the state of more than 31,000 doses from the company, which has major research operations in Groton, Connecticut.

“This is the dawn of a new day. This is a time for hope. This is a historic moment,” Jeffrey Flaks, president and chief executive officer of Hartford HealthCare, said at a news conference. “Our physicians have described this in many ways for our country, comparable to putting a man on the moon.”

Officials at Hartford HealthCare, which operates seven acute care hospitals in the state, said 15 front-line health care workers including doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists were the first people in Connecticut to receive the vaccine.

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Applause erupted when Dr. Ajay Kumar, executive vice president and chief clinical officer for Hartford HealthCare, received the first dose.

Shipments of the frozen vials of vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech began arriving at hospitals around the country Monday.

Gov. Ned Lamont said the “highest-risk employees” who deal with COVID-19 patients are the first priority for the vaccine.

“This is a really, really important day,” Lamont said at Monday’s news conference.

But he added, “We’ve got a lot more wearing the mask to do. We’ve got a lot more being careful to do, especially during this holiday season. Especially when people tend to gather and perhaps let their guard down.”

By Dec. 21, shipments of the vaccine are expected be transported to CVS and Walgreens distribution centers and then sent to nursing homes throughout Connecticut, Lamont said when announcing the state’s vaccination plan last week.

The first Pfizer doses will be split evenly between hospitals and nursing homes in the state. During a later briefing with reporters, Lamont said a total of 15,600 doses will be distributed to a dozen hospitals and 15,600 doses to nursing homes this week. Dr. Keith Grant, from Hartford Healthcare, said other hospitals in the system will be getting the vaccine later this week or early next week.

By week two, the state expects 42,625 will be distributed to hospitals, 39,200 to federally qualified health centers and local health departments to vaccinate health care workers. Nursing homes are expected to receive about 16,575 doses in the second week. The number ramps up because the state expects to receive doses of Moderna’s vaccine as well, if it is approved for public use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Roughly 240,000 health care workers and nursing home residents and staff should be fully vaccinated by the end of January, assuming 80% of people in those groups agree to get a shot, Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer, said last week.

From mid-January to May, about 1 million people in the state’s vaccination plan are expected to get vaccinated. That includes critical workers, people living in other congregate settings, people over age 65 and those under age 65 who are high risk. All others are expected to have access to a vaccine in June.

As of Monday, there have been 5,444 COVID-associated deaths in Connecticut, and increase of 81 since Friday. The number of hospitalizations has climbed by 33 to 1,243.

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Associated Press Writer Susan Haigh contributed to this report.