Gov. Ned Lamont dramatically shifted Connecticut’s COVID-19 vaccination strategy Monday, instituting a system for eligibility that prioritizes age over all other risk factors. The only exception will be made for teachers and other school employees, who will be eligible to receive the vaccine starting March 1.
Essential workers and residents with underlying medical conditions were initially scheduled to become eligible for the vaccine in the next few weeks. Now, vaccinations will be based on age.
Here’s what we know about the new vaccination system:
Who is eligible right now?
Vaccine eligibility currently remains restricted to residents who are at least 65 years old.
Who will become eligible next?
Under the state’s new plan, residents aged 55 to 64 will become eligible for a vaccine on March 1. Teachers and other school employees will also become eligible on that day.
Next, residents ages 45 and over will become eligible on March 22.
Residents ages 35 and over will become eligible on April 12 and those ages 16 to 34 will become eligible on May 3.
Which educators are eligible for the vaccine?
All pre-kindergarten through 12th grade school staff and teachers, in addition to professional childcare providers, will be eligible to receive the vaccine in March.
What was the original system?
In mid-December, the state began Phase 1A, which targeted health care workers, first responders and nursing home residents, began in mid-December.
By mid-January, the state opened vaccination appointments to residents ages 75 and older. A weeks later, residents ages 65 to 74 became eligible for the vaccine.
After that, the state had planned to open eligibility to frontline essential workers — teachers, grocery store employees, restaurant workers, and others — in addition to residents with medical conditions that made them higher-risk for the virus.
Next, Phase 1C would have opened eligibility to other essential workers—and finally, to the rest of the state population.
Why is the state making this change?
Lamont’s office justified the decision Monday by arguing that it was an effort to vaccinate as many people in the state as quickly as possible. Previous vaccination plans were “overly complex and confusing,” according to a press release.
“Age is one of the strongest factors contributing to COVID-19 deaths, with 96 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Connecticut occurring in people over the age of 55,” Lamont’s office said.
What happens to essential workers?
Essential workers—grocery store and public transit workers, restaurant employees, and others—who previously were slated to get vaccinated within a few weeks, will now have to wait to get vaccinated based on their age. For some workers, that could mean their chance to get a shot could now be months away.
What about people with comorbid conditions?
Those with underlying health conditions, like cancer and obesity, will also have to wait to get vaccinated until their age group is eligible.
Are any other states prioritizing age over other risk factors?
Across the country, only one other state, Rhode Island, has decided to adopt an age-based eligibility plan. But in the state’s vaccine eligibility hierarchy, after expanding eligibility to residents ages 65 to 74, the state plans to target residents ages 16 to 64 with preexisting conditions, starting in mid-March
After that, the next eligible groups in Rhode Island will be adults ages 60 to 64, followed by those in their 50s, those in their 40s, and then those 39 years old and under.
How does the new plan compare to CDC guidance?
It significantly strays from what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends.
According to the CDC, after vaccinating healthcare workers, first responders, and nursing home residents, and residents at least 75 years old, states should turn to essential workers including fire fighters, police officers, grocery store workers, public transit workers and teachers.
Next, the CDC recommends vaccinating people ages 65 to 74, followed by those ages 16 to 64 with underlying conditions, and finally other essential workers (including those in food service, public health, media, and transportation industries).
Under Connecticut’s new plan, instead of prioritizing essential workers and those with underlying conditions, vaccination eligibility would revolve solely around age, with the exception of teachers.
Eliza Fawcett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.