More than 70% of all adults have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Connecticut, becoming the first state in the U.S. to reach this benchmark. As the state hits another vaccine milestone, some providers say the work is far from over.
"We are okay now, but we are not there yet," said Robert Miller, director of health for the Eastern Highlands Health District.
This map illustrates vaccine coverage for the state. Darker blue indicates a higher vaccination rate. Pockets of lighter shades can be seen statewide, including up and down the eastern half of Connecticut.
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“We want to see that map turn darker blue, especially in our jurisdiction, but everywhere across the state," said Russell Melmed, director of health for the Chatham Health District, which covers six towns including Hebron and Marlborough.
Melmed explains that to increase the vaccination rates now, as supply outstrips demand, more work and outreach efforts will be required, especially in more rural areas.
"We don’t have the population density. We don’t have one or two blocks with 1,000 or 2,000 people that we can canvass very readily and do door-knocking campaigns," said Melmed.
To help with these types of challenges, the state directed $13 million in federal funding to 27 local health departments for vaccine equity partnerships.
Chatham Health District will use their grant funding to address two challenges: hesitancy and access.
"We’ll be doing education," said Melmed. "We will be having forums and meetings.”
"When you have a population that is more scarcely populated, it is just going to take more boots on the ground, more time," said Melmed.
The Eastern Highlands Health District, based in Mansfield, has similar strategies planned. They are partnering with the North Central District Health Department, which was awarded grant funding from the state, along with other community partners.
EHHD plans to host more pop-up vaccine clinics, bringing the vaccine to the people. Their clinics have walk-up availability now.
In addition to increasing access, the health district will ramp up education efforts, aiming to debunk any misinformation.
“You can’t say that kind of information enough," said Miller. "Because it just takes a little bit of off information or misinformation for someone to be concerned enough that they are hesitant.”
Ledge Light Health District, covering the New London region, also received grant funding.
Uncas Health District, which covers several towns in the Norwich region, received funding to ease access and increase outreach efforts as well. They will work with community partners including TVCCA, UCFS, Backus Hospital and Norwich Human Services on the implementation.