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States leaders concerned about ‘pockets’ of unvaccinated

July 8, 2021 GMT

BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) — While close to 80% of adults in Connecticut have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, state officials said Thursday they’re concerned the vaccination rate is less than 50% in some cities and towns as autumn approaches.

Communities as varied as rural Sterling and urban Hartford fall on that list.

“We really want to eliminate any pockets of low vaccination,” said Dr. Deidre Gifford, the state’s acting Department of Public Health commissioner. She voiced concern about the highly infectious delta variant of COVID-19 becoming widespread in other parts of the world and the U.S.

“It’s not predominant yet in Connecticut, due in large part to our high vaccination rate, but it could become dominant in these pockets of under vaccinated people,” she warned during a news conference at Bristol Hospital. “We know it’s more transmissible and we know it probably causes more severe disease. So we want to make sure that we don’t have any areas that are vulnerable to the return of COVID in the fall.”

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Gifford said the state hopes to fend off the delta variant as much as it can by getting more people vaccinated. As of Thursday, there have been 51 cases so far in Connecticut.

State officials have tried to encourage people to get the shot by offering incentives ranging from free drinks at bars and restaurants to contests for concert tickets to big-name country music, hip-hop and pop performers this summer. On Thursday, with reporters listening in, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont personally called a man who won tickets to see country performer Luke Bryan.

More than 3,000 people have signed up for the state’s contest so far. People can also snag free tickets by being among the first to get vaccinated at certain clinics.

Gifford on Thursday tried to publicly assuage people’s concerns about the safety of the vaccine, stressing their effectiveness and noting that nearly all COVID-associated deaths in Connecticut have been among unvaccinated people.

“I understand and appreciate those issues of trust. But talk to somebody that you do trust to get the information that you need about getting vaccinated,” she said. Gifford stressed there are more than 300 locations across Connecticut where people can get vaccinated, including large-chain pharmacies, grocery stores and Wal-Mart stores.