Starting Monday, hundreds of thousands in Connecticut will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in phase 1B.
Federal guidance is calling for states to vaccine people 65 years of age and older. Currently Connecticut's plans include those 75 and older.
"We're telling states today that they should open vaccinations to all of their most vulnerable people. That is the most effective way to save lives now,” said Alex Azar, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Tuesday, the state’s vaccine allocation subcommittee followed the government, recommending people over 65, as well as those over 16 who have certain health conditions, be included. That decision would need to be approved by the governor's vaccine advisory group.
“So, I would support that but bring in those 75 and older in the first wave,” said committee member Raymond Sullivan, health director for Brookfield Health Department. “Because they’re the hardest to reach for us and they are the most at risk.”
News of the government’s announcement spread quickly during the Tuesday afternoon meeting.
“As I’m speaking, I’m getting emails from people I know because of the announcement that happened at noon time, assuming that we are going to be following the guidelines set forth by HHS, and therefore saying ‘when can I come in?’” said committee member Dr. Suzanne Lagarde, CEO of Fair Haven Community Health Care.
The committee warned there may not be enough vaccines right away, but it could soon change.
“Adding individuals is going to require that they release additional doses, and it appears that they will begin the process of releasing doses that were being held back,” said Dr. Deidre Gifford, acting commissioner of the Department of Public Health.
Gifford made reference to Azar's additional announcement that second vaccine doses being held by the federal government will be released to speed up vaccinations.
The subcommittee members discussed ways to get it done, focusing on efforts to help older residents with online registration. They’ve recommended health care organizations reach out to patients, and the state is working on multiple ways to help as well.
“We ourselves as the Department of Public Health are standing up an access line that will be available to folks who are not able to self-serve,” said Benjamin Bechtolsheim, DPH COVID-19 vaccine director.
There’s no word yet on how many or when doses be released by the government. The group says those who do will get both doses on the schedule recommended by the vaccine companies.