Connecticut will speed up vaccinations and let hospitals prioritize residents with pre-existing health conditions

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Eliza Fawcett, Hartford Courant
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Under Connecticut’s newly accelerated vaccination system — which will likely open up vaccination appointments to all residents 16 and older by April 5 — hospitals can prioritize vaccinating residents with pre-existing health conditions, Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday.

“As of April 5, there’s no more change by age: everybody is eligible, 16 and above,” he said. Hospitals will be “thinking very thoughtfully” about accelerating access to the vaccine for residents with pre-existing conditions and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“We’re going to make a big effort to make sure that those folks, who are most at risk, move to the front of the line,” Lamont said.

Prioritizing residents with comorbidities represents an about-face from the state’s current age-based vaccination plan, adopted last month, which overhauled an original system that prioritized essential workers and medically-vulnerable residents. In February, Lamont argued that the age-based system would enable the state to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible and that older residents were most at-risk for COVID-19 complications and death.

Still, under the new plan, the state will largely take a hands-off approach to deliberations about who is high-risk and how those vaccine appointments will be allocated.

“We can really now leave it to our healthcare professionals to use their judgement to bring people forward in early April as they see fit,” Lamont’s chief operating officer Josh Geballe said.

Hospitals and community health centers will “run whatever processes most align with their patient population and their vaccine administration sites,” he added.

The state is also looking into opening dedicated vaccination clinics for residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities, according to Geballe.

Geballe said he did not expect hospitals to cleave to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about which conditions count as high-risk, arguing that the CDC’s list of high-risk conditions was “not particularly helpful” as it covered more than two-thirds of the state’s adult population.

“I think they’ll probably be more focused on the most severe and most high-risk individuals in those groups,” he said.

Lamont urged residents who are low-risk for COVID-19 complications to hold off on scheduling a vaccine when eligibility opens for those 16+.

“If you’re relatively healthy, you maybe don’t have to go to work every day, you can telecommute, perhaps you think you had some sort of a mild infection in the past, maybe don’t sign up that very first few days” in order to make space for those “that maybe have a little more need,” he said.

Lamont added that there would be enough vaccine available in the coming month that those eager to get vaccinated would largely be able to do so in April and May.

More vaccine coming

Anticipating a significant increase in federal vaccine supply, Lamont’s office announced Monday afternoon that residents ages 45 and older will be eligible to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations beginning Friday and all residents aged 16 and older will become eligible on April 5.

The state also announced that residents at least 45 years old would be able to schedule a vaccination starting on Friday, the same day that Connecticut will further reopening, permitting 100% occupancy in restaurants and other establishments.

“We’re going to be able to accelerate our schedule just a bit,” Lamont said.

Connecticut expects to receive at least 130,000 doses of the COVID-19 this week, 140,000 the following week and close to 200,000 the week of April 5, according to Lamont.

Lamont said he expected that all residents eager to get vaccinated would be able to by mid-May — after which point the state would focus even more heavily on convincing hesitant residents to get vaccinated.

COVID-19 positivity rate stable; uptick in hospitalizations

Connecticut reported 2,525 COVID-19 cases out of 85,569 tests reported, for a daily positivity rate of 2.95%.

There are currently 407 people hospitalized with COVID-19, an increase of 26 individuals since Friday.

Lamont noted that the positivity rate and hospitalizations were both stable, adding, “I think it’s relatively good news that not much has changed.”

An additional 23 residents died of COVID-19 since Friday.

Eliza Fawcett can be reached at elfawcett@courant.com.