Mass vaccination sites on hold while providers await supply
Officials at Hartford HealthCare say their plans to open numerous mass vaccination sites across Connecticut are on hold because they don’t have the supply of vaccine to operate them.
Gov. Ned Lamont, however, said Thursday the state’s allocations of vaccine from the federal government continue to trend upward, about 5% from last week.
“That’s about 61,000 vaccinations a week,” said Lamont, noting another 11,000 doses are being delivered directly to pharmacies under a federal initiative. “The numbers (are) trending up on a pretty consistent basis, which is really good news.”
He said Connecticut expects to receive 17% more vaccine doses next week. That includes a 5% increase in the state’s allocation and 12% sent to the pharmacies. Additionally, the Democrat said he expects all residents 75 years and older should receive a vaccine by mid-February.
Dr. James Cardon, Hartford HealthCare’s chief clinical officer, said that system’s providers are administering between 4,000-5,000 vaccinations a week at its 17 locations, but have the the capacity to do much more.
“At our current sites, we could get to 5,000 a day if we were to fully open a schedule and staff it as we have prepared,” he said. “But at our mass vaccine sites we have a great deal of flexibility to add many more than that.”
Cardon said they have secured “mega sites” across the state, but are not sure when they will be able to open them.
“We’re poised as many systems are, to try and meet the needs critically,” he said. “Speed is important and our goal continues to be that whatever vaccine we get in at the beginning of the week we have administered by the end of the week.”
Several state providers including UConn Health in Farmington and the Eastern Connecticut Health Network have had to cancel or reschedule clinics this week after receiving less vaccine supply than expected, but Cardon said Hartford HealthCare hasn’t had that issue. He said they have been working closely with the state to make sure no vaccine is wasted and that they make appointments only for the amount of vaccine they are receiving.
The governor has said the state is also being notified three weeks ahead of time as to how much vaccine it can expect. The notice was previously just one week.
“We do have schedules built out longer than we have confidence about the amount of vaccine we’re getting, but at the moment we’ve been able to avoid (cancelations) and for the near future we think we’re lined up pretty well to make sure we won’t have to do that,” Cardon said.
As of Thursday, there have been 459,257 total doses administered, which includes 358,019 first doses and 101,238 second doses. State officials said 49% of residents age 75 and older have been vaccinated. That figure differs by individual cities and towns. In New Britain, for example, the state said 18% of residents 75 and older had received their first dose, compared to 47% in Stamford.
Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases in Connecticut has decreased by 556.1, a decline of 28.7%, according to data through Feb. 3 from Johns Hopkins University. As of Thursday, there were 937 new cases. The number of hospitalizations declined by 37 to 837, while the number of COVID-associated deaths increased by 28 to 7,185 since Wednesday.
In other coronavirus-related news in Connecticut:
Lamont on Thursday signed his 89th executive order. It primarily relaxes or extends earlier imposed restrictions and relief measures, such as easing the limits on religious gatherings by eliminating the state’s numerical cap. The order, however, maintains the capacity limit for such gatherings at 50%.
Face coverings, social distancing and other health and safety measures still must be taken.
Lamont’s latest order also permits all voters in any special election or municipal primary held prior to April 20 to vote absentee, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as a valid excuse. The move is similar to order he previously signed that allowed voters to use the ballots during the 2020 elections.
Additionally, Lamont’s order requires local and regional school boards to continue to provide two weeks of paid leave — or the equivalent for part-time workers —to school district staff who have to miss work because they need to self-quarantine. It would also apply if their school closed because of an exposure; if they need to care for someone under quarantine; they’re diagnosed with COVID-19 or experiencing symptoms; or if they have to care for a child whose school or daycare closed for COVID-related reasons.
Federal legislation mandating such allowances recently expired.