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Apr. 8—Area legislators are among those who have taken advantage of the coronavirus vaccine, with many saying it's an attempt to return to some sense of normalcy in society as well as within the General Assembly.
Rep. Timothy Ackert, R-Coventry, said he has received his first dose, despite a fear of needles.
"I was trying to get the Johnson & Johnson. I'm not a big fan of shots," he said.
Unlike others on the market, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one dose for a patient to be fully inoculated.
BY THE NUMBERS
ADMINISTERED: More than 2 million total doses of the COVID-19 vaccines in the state.
TO WHOM: About 82% of all Connecticut residents at least 65 years old have received at least their first dose, as have 75% of those 55 and older, and 67% of people older than 45 years old. About 45% of all residents 16 years old or older have received at least their first dose.
MORE COMING: The state is expecting a shipment of 288,000 new doses this week.
Although Ackert is a military veteran and could have received the vaccine sooner, he said he didn't want to give the appearance that he was jumping the line because he was a legislator. The Veterans Administration opened eligibility to everyone in its system long before certain age groups became eligible by state standards.
Other than some soreness in his arm, Ackert said he didn't feel any side effects, but is prepared to be "pretty banged up for the second one," which is more often related to some mild symptoms.
Rep. Thomas Delnicki, R-South Windsor, also has received his first vaccine dose and is scheduled for his second at the end of the month.
After having some difficulty getting an appointment through the state registration system, he said he was able to quickly get his first dose at the South Windsor Senior Center, which he now recommends to residents.
While Delnicki said he was "reticent" at first out of fear of adverse reactions, ultimately, he said, "I was comfortable doing it," but added that "I fully appreciate and respect people that don't want to get it."
Rep. Jeffrey Currey, D-East Hartford, is the lone area legislator asked who said that he's not planning on getting the COVID-19 vaccine anytime soon. Currey is in a unique position, however, as he received a kidney transplant in January.
Because of the operation, his doctors are advising him not to get vaccinated at this point, he said.
"If it wasn't for that, I would in a heartbeat," Currey said. "If I could, I would, and I'd advise everybody to do so."
For those who remain hesitant, he recommended they consult with their doctors, families, and friends to learn more about the vaccine's safety and effectiveness, rather than relying on pseudo-science spread on social media.
"We all have to be in this together and make decisions based on fact not on keyboard crusaders on Facebook," Currey said.
House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, D-East Hartford, lives in a community that is covered under the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's social vulnerability index, which includes communities with residents who are most vulnerable to adverse health impacts of the disease, and has been targeted by the state for more aggressive outreach regarding COVID-19 vaccines.
When visiting the Xfinity Theater in Hartford for his inoculation appointment, he said it was a streamlined and quick process, and also had no side effects other than a sore arm following his first dose.
Sen. Stephen T. Cassano, D-Manchester, said he and his wife were vaccinated at a CVS pharmacy in Colchester.
"It was extremely efficient," he said. "People were terrific, well organized. It was a homerun."
Noting that the supply of COVID-19 vaccines has increased significantly, "it just makes sense for people to protect themselves and their families. That's what this is all about right now. It works. It's saving lives."
Rep. Kurt Vail, R-Stafford, said he has not yet received his vaccine, but is working with his doctor with whom he discussed the safety of inoculation.
The more people who get vaccinated, he said, the more likely restrictions will be eased, eventually including mask mandates.
While Vail is choosing to get vaccinated, he said others may not be as comfortable getting it and shouldn't be forced.
"To each their own," he said. "It's their choice. Whatever their comfort zone is."
Rojas would not comment on why some people may remain hesitant to get vaccinated, but simply said, "I believe the vaccine is safe."
With hundreds of thousands of new appointments opening throughout the state this week, he said he's hopeful residents would sign up, helping the state to return to somewhat normal by this summer.
Rep. Jason Doucette, D-Manchester, also has received his first shot, and "it was pretty straightforward" without any major obstacles, he said.
"I would strongly encourage everybody to do it," he said. "This doesn't work unless we get a sufficient amount of herd immunity. ... As a society, we have to look out for the greater good, and getting vaccinated is the way we do that."
Along with a return to some normalcy as a society, several legislators said they hope that vaccinations will enable a return to normal business at the state Capitol, as adjustments have been made to minimize the number of people in the building since last year.
The Capitol complex has been closed to the public for more than a year, after shutting down in March 2020, leading to most legislative action being conducted remotely.
Delnicki said there's a lack of one-on-one communications between lawmakers and activists that normally flood the Capitol complex.
"We need to get back to a level of normalcy in the state of Connecticut. We need to open up the Capitol. Town councils need to be meeting in person," he said. "We need to get back to that normalcy in how we do business and this is probably the only way we're going to get there."
Cassano said closing the Capitol to the public was the right decision to protect public health, but said he misses in-person discussions with constituents and activists, noting that the Capitol and the Legislative Office Building normally are bustling during the legislative session.
"Now, it's a ghost town, but that's a safety precaution," he said.
While Sen. Daniel Champagne, R-Vernon, indicated that he had been vaccinated, he said he would not give out his personal medical information.
Nonetheless, Champagne, who also serves as mayor, said Vernon has done an exceptional job ensuring vaccines are available to residents in town and in surrounding communities.
Throughout the pandemic, Vernon has worked to help residents with groceries and other needs, and has established mobile clinics for vaccine administration.
"We're taking it out to the people. We're making it easy," Champagne said. "I don't look at anything as a problem; I look for solutions."
He said the more people who are vaccinated, the better it is for society as a whole, but added that the decision is up to individuals.
"It's a personal decision on everybody's part," Champagne said. "We live in America; you make the decision."
During session, Eric can be found at the Capitol in Hartford, reporting the information that readers want and need to know. For insights and updates on legislation, politicians, committees, and commissions that affect the entire state of Connecticut, follow Eric on Twitter: @BednerEric.