Connecticut adjusts vaccine rollout to age-based system

A major change to Connecticut’s vaccination schedule was announced Monday, with the state continuing with a mostly age-based system to make the rollout less complicated after seeing the challenges other states have faced in vaccinating essential workers and people with underlying health conditions.

“The lesson learned here from all these other states is, complexity is the enemy of equity and speed, which makes it the enemy of public health,” Max Reiss, spokesman for Gov. Ned Lamont, told The Associated Press.

Beginning March 1, anyone aged 55 to 64 will be allowed to get a COVID-19 vaccine. That group will be followed by people 45-54 on March 22; 35-44 years on April 12; and everyone else 34 years and younger on May 3.

The only exception to the Democratic governor’s new rollout will be for pre-K-12 school staff, including teachers, and professional childcare providers. That group, which is estimated to include about 100,000 people, will be allowed to get their shots in March at dedicated clinics set up for them. No specific date has been announced yet.

“One of the priorities in the entire pandemic has been to keep school operations going and minimize shutdowns and keep kids in the classroom because we know that’s the best outcome,” Reiss said, adding how it’s an important segment of the public to get vaccinated considering “the school setting kind of touches every element of society.”

Lamont previously said he would release details this week about which essential workers and people with underlying medical conditions could soon begin signing up for vaccinations. Currently, only people ages 65 and older and medical workers are eligible. The previous group eligible for the vaccine included people 75 years and older. Lamont said Friday he would release a list on Monday of the particular medical conditions that would make people eligible.

However, Reiss said it became clear over the weekend, when preparing that list, that it would be very difficult to prioritize some medical conditions over others. Also, those two broad groups of residents would likely encompass more than 1 million people, which Reiss said could have led to long waiting times and confusion.

“The governor said, ‘Look if this gets the most (shots) in arms quickly and you can describe it in one sentence or two sentences, that’s a heck of a lot better,’” Reiss said.

Lamont also announced he is directing the Department of Public Health to set numerical targets and work with vaccine providers to ensure it is administered to people living in high-risk communities.

The administration will likely receive some pushback from various groups, including frontline grocery store workers and people with disabilities, that have been arguing they should be prioritized for the shots.

Connecticut has been praised by both the Biden and Trump administrations for its rollout. According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state ranked 5th in the nation on Feb. 21 for the percentage of residents – 16.3% – who’ve received at least one dose of the vaccine. The CDC said 7.6% of the state has been fully vaccinated so far.

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