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65 and older can begin making vaccine appointments Thursday

February 8, 2021 GMT
Mary Dudley, of Meriden, is administered the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine from Meriden Health Dept. Associate Health Director Stephanie Denya at the Max E. Muravnick senior center on West Main Street in Meriden, Conn., Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. (Dave Zajac/Record-Journal via AP)
Mary Dudley, of Meriden, is administered the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine from Meriden Health Dept. Associate Health Director Stephanie Denya at the Max E. Muravnick senior center on West Main Street in Meriden, Conn., Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. (Dave Zajac/Record-Journal via AP)

Roughly 350,000 Connecticut residents age 65 and older can officially begin signing up for COVID-19 vaccination appointments on Thursday, Gov. Ned Lamont announced on Monday.

News that a new cohort of people will soon be eligible for the shot comes as the state reports 56% percent of residents age 75 and older already vaccinated.

“I’d like to think that we’ll be able to move through the 65 and above population relatively quickly,” said Lamont, noting that some of those people may already have been vaccinated because they live in nursing home or assisted living facilities. He predicted everyone in the age group could receive at least one vaccine in four weeks.

“Our only limiting factor is the number of vaccines that we’re getting,” said Lamont, a Democrat. The state this week expects to receive about 58,000 doses, as well as another 11,000 being sent directly to pharmacies, and tens of thousands of second doses, for a total of about 100,000. Lamont said he’s been told by former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb that Connecticut can expect to see figure ramp up relatively soon.

Some people age 65 and older may be getting their shots a little sooner. Lamont said if providers have extra vaccine at the end of the day, they should make it available to people 65 and older to ensure “there are no vaccines left behind and that every vaccine is a shot in the arm.”

Individuals between the ages of 16 and 64 who have underlying health conditions, and frontline essential workers, are expected to be the next groups to receive COVID vaccinations. As of Monday, there have been a total of 517,081 vaccine doses administered in Connecticut, including 387,174 first doses and 129,907 doses, according to Lamont’s office.

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NURSING HOME IMMUNITY

Certain legal liability protections for health care facilities, including nursing homes, that were put in place during the height of the pandemic will now expire on March 1, according to a new executive order signed Monday by Lamont. The decision was lauded by advocates for the elderly.

“I am very pleased Governor Lamont has decided it is time to put nursing home residents and their families first,” said Nora Duncan, state director of AARP Connecticut.

AARP Connecticut, the State Long Term Care Ombudsman, and other advocates have been urging Lamont to end the immunity for eight months. In place since April 2020, it granted nursing homes civil immunity for “acts or omissions undertaken in good faith while providing health care services in support of the state’s COVID-19 response.”

Meanwhile, AARP Connecticut credited Lamont and his administration for prioritizing nursing home residents in the state’s vaccination effort. Nearly all nursing home residents have received their doses and COVID-19 deaths have decreased 70% in nursing homes in recent weeks, AARP said.

Lamont noted Monday that hospitalizations and deaths across the state are trending downward. While there were more than 4,300 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases reported over the past three days in Connecticut, the governor said hospitalizations dropped to 815, the lowest in the last few months.

Meanwhile, the number of COVID-associated deaths grew by 68 since Friday, for a total of 7,282. But Lamont said those numbers are about half of what Connecticut was experiencing a month ago.

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CERTIFIED MEDICAL ASSISTANTS

Connecticut legislators were urged Monday to pass a bill that would allow certified medical assistants to perform vaccinations, with the Connecticut Hospital Association noting the “difficult undertaking of vaccinating every resident of the state” with the COVID-19 vaccine without more trained staff.

But the concept is receiving some pushback, especially from nurses, who question whether certified medical assistants are properly trained for the task and receive adequate oversight.

“Certified medical assistants are a valuable part of the health care team, however the administration of a medication requires more than technical skill of inserting a needle,” said John Brady, a registered nurse and vice president of the union AFT Connecticut, during a public hearing held by the General Assembly’s Public Health Committee. “It requires the ability to assess the patient before, during and after the administration of that medication.”

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Brady noted that training for a certified medical assistant can vary greatly, from a high school diploma and one year of experience in a doctor’s office to an associate degree. Also, he said their certifications are not issued by the state and cannot be revoked, unlike state-licensed medical professionals such as doctors and nurses whose licenses can be revoked.

In written testimony, the Connecticut Hospital Association suggested that certified medical assistants first be required to complete a vaccination training program that has been approved by the state Department of Public Health commissioner.

“As the state and hospitals continue the difficult undertaking of vaccinating every resident of the state, hospitals and other health care providers will need a growing number of appropriately trained staff to administer the COVID19 vaccine,” the organization said.

Dr. Khuram Ghumma, the immediate past president of the Hartford County Medical Association and a primary care physician, said Connecticut is one of the only states that does not allow doctors to delegate the task of administering vaccines. He suggested “a few hours” of additional training in anatomy for the medical assistants would be needed, noting they would still be following the directions of a doctor who decides whether a patient should get a particular vaccine.

The bill awaits further action in the General Assembly’s Public Health Committee.