Connecticut will receive a slight boost in its weekly vaccine supply, Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday as distributors stress the need for more doses from the federal government and residents grow increasingly anxious for inoculation.
The state’s weekly allotment will increase from 46,000 first doses to 54,000, Lamont said, which could slightly speed the process of vaccinating more than 1 million residents in the ongoing Phase 1B. The governor said those doses will be specifically focused on elderly residents in the state’s “underserved communities.”
Despite the welcome increase in supply, providers continue to clamor for more doses. Hospital officials say they’re fully prepared to scale up their vaccination efforts as soon as the supply increases.
“Whatever the amount of vaccine we can get from the state we will distribute,” Jeff Flaks, CEO of Hartford HealthCare, said Monday. “The only limitation that we’re going to experience is going to be how much vaccine they give us.”
As of Thursday, about 8.5% of Connecticut residents had received at least one vaccine dose, third most of any state according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of about 300,000 residents to have received at least one shot, more than 50,000 had received both.
But two weeks into Phase 1B, vaccination remains open only to individuals age 75 and older. Residents ages 65-74 are expected to become eligible within several weeks, followed weeks later by frontline essential workers and people with co-morbid conditions. Individuals who live in group settings are being vaccinated gradually throughout Phase 1B.
Vaccine distribution gains urgency every day, experts say, as new, more contagious variants of COVID-19 spread within the United States. Vaccination, they say, is the best way to prevent these strains from causing coronavirus cases to spike once again.
“If we just sit idle, that will become the predominant strain in time,” said Dr. Tom Balcezak, Yale New Haven’s chief clinical officer. “The only way to get rid of it is if we vaccinate our way out of it.”
Hartford HealthCare officials said they received about 5,000 first doses and 5,000 second doses this week, below their requested amount and far below the amount they could administer.
Similarly, the Yale New Haven Health System has a standing request for 10,000 first doses a week but typically receives about half that total. With ample supply, officials say, they’d be able to administer 10,000-15,000 first doses a week without difficulty.
“The issue is there’s no evidence we’re going to get that [amount] of vaccine in the next month or so,” said Dr. Hari Deshpande, co-lead for Yale New Haven Health’s vaccination program.
This week, Yale New Haven launched a large new vaccination site at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven, with 21 vaccination stations, room for another 10 and plenty of staff willing to work them. For now, though, they’re operating only four stations, due to lack of vaccine supply.
“We just don’t have the vaccine,” Balcezak said. “That’s our consistent complaint.”
Meanwhile, residents across the state have grown frustrated at the slow pace of the vaccine rollout. Individuals in Phase 1B groups that aren’t yet eligible are left waiting for the go-ahead, while people who live in high-risk settings such as prisons, shelters and independent living facilities are left without any timeline at all.
As some group settings have begun to receive their vaccines, residents at others are left to wait impatiently. Kevin Paradis, a South Windsor resident whose 87-year-old father lives at a retirement home in Manchester, said his father’s facility first asked residents in late December whether they wanted to be vaccinated as part of a mobile clinic but have failed to follow up with those who said yes.
Paradis and his family waited weeks to hear more before finally giving up. On Sunday, Paradis signed up his father for a vaccine appointment at Rentschler Field. His father got his first shot Thursday, as most other residents at the home continue to wait.
“They’re getting scared,” Paradis said, noting the emergence of new COVID-19 strains. “Well, they’ve been scared, but it’s getting even worse.”
Josh Geballe, the state’s chief operating officer, said which facilities are vaccinated when depends mostly on “logistics.”
“It’s really a function of them getting organized, getting ready, getting the logistics in place, getting coordinated with the partner they’re going to work with to do the vaccinations,” Geballe said. “So that’s why it’s going to take some time to play out.”
Alex Putterman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.