Registration Starts for Phase 1b of State’s COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout
As the state transitions to the second phase of administering COVID-19 vaccines, the Connecticut River Area Health District (CRAHD) reports safely vaccinating more than 1,000 health care personnel and medical first responders who were eligible in the initial phase, Phase 1a.
The vaccinations, which took place using a drive-through model at the Old Saybrook Middle School, were “very fast, safe, and efficient,” said CRAHD Director of Health Scott Martinson via email with the Courier.
CRAHD’s clinics were open to eligible individuals in its service area, which includes the towns of Clinton, Chester, Deep River, Haddam, and Old Saybrook. They were also expanded to eligible individuals in Essex, Killingworth, and Westbrook.
Chester Fire Chief James Grzybowski said that with some advance planning, vaccinating the 65 members of the Chester Hose Company, Inc., “was very good, efficient. It went very fast. Things just materialized as quickly as it could.”
“It was a matter of days from when we were notified when they [CRAHD] got the vaccine to getting everybody there,” he added.
Asked if receiving the vaccine helps alleviate any anxiety on behalf of the company’s members related to contracting COVID-19, Grzybowski said “I feel that it’s taken a little bit of anxiety from my members.
“They risk their lives every day and on top of it, to have to do the same thing, on top of it with the pandemic, puts a lot of stress” on them, he said, but that “we are going to be there, no matter what. That is our job. That is what we are dedicated for, for our community.”
In addition to vaccinating local firefighters, police officers, emergency medical services providers, school nurses, and visiting nurses, CRAHD expanded its services state-wide.
“We opened our last clinics to anyone statewide who was [Phase] 1a eligible,” said Martinson. “We were able to vaccinate many of the state police and others.”
The state handled administration of the vaccine to residents and staff of long-term care facilities, which include nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
“Every nursing home in the state has completed administering their first doses” as of Jan. 8, according to a Jan. 11 press release issued by Governor Ned Lamont.
“I am very proud of our state for the speed in which they vaccinated the residents and staff of nursing homes,” said Martinson, who added that the staff at these facilities are heroes.
“The fact that they have been vaccinated so quickly will save many lives,” he added.
Data on the total number of COVID-19 vaccinations administered in Connecticut, as reported in a press release issued by Lamont on Jan. 14, showed a total of 171,035 doses administered, with 154,994 individuals having received their first dose and 16,041 having received their second dose.
The next phase of administering the vaccine, Phase 1b, will start on Monday, Jan. 18, for individuals aged 75 and up.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the State of Connecticut are prioritizing this age group at the start of Phase 1b, as “they may be 5 percent of the population, but they are about 60 percent of the fatalities,” said Lamont, at his Jan. 11 press briefing.
The vaccine, which is offered free-of-charge, is administered by appointment only.
“It’s all appointment based,” said Josh Geballe, the state’s chief operating officer on Jan. 11. “We don’t want people showing up at vaccination sites. You won’t get a vaccine if you just show up without an appointment.”
In addition to the outreach of participating healthcare providers to existing patients aged 75 and older, individuals can now register online and by telephone for an appointment.
Making an appointment through the web-based Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) is available at ct.gov/covidvaccine. Making an appointment with assistance is available by calling Connecticut’s COVID Vaccine Appointment Assistance Line at 877-918-2224.
“You’ll be able to sign up and make an appointment and I’ve gotta tell you, there won’t be room for everybody on day one, so you’re going to have to be patient,” Lamont said.
Beyond the 277,000 individuals age 75 and up, Phase 1b will also be expanded to include a significant number of others over time.
This includes those categorized in Phase 1b from the start: approximately 50,000 residents and staff of congregate settings and approximately 325,000 frontline essential workers, in addition to those 75 and up.
It also includes those groups recommend by the Allocation Subcommittee of the Governor’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group: approximately 353,000 residents between the ages of 65 and 74 and approximately 362,000 residents between the ages of 16 and 64 who have underlying health conditions.
In total, 1.3 million residents are eligible to receive the vaccine in Phase 1b, according to Lamont’s Jan. 14 press release.
“As supply increases and a significant portion of individuals over 75 have received the vaccine, Phase 1b will open up to include more of the eligible populations with a focus on addressing issues of equity and risk of poor outcomes from COVID-19,” the release states.
Although Geballe reported on Jan. 11, “we already have over 100 locations around the state that are doing vaccinations,” work is underway at the state level to expand the infrastructure and provider base required to administer higher quantities of the vaccine.
As of Jan. 11, Martinson said it is unknown where and how CRAHD will participate in administering vaccinations for Phase 1b.
“The bottom line is, we know we are going to need an all-hands on deck approach to vaccinating the entire state,” said Martinson. “Every health clinic, pharmacy, doctor’s office, local health department, etc., will be needed.”
He added that “despite the anger, frustration, and stress of the vaccine rollout, which will continue, people need to truly remember that the fact that we have a safe and effective vaccine in less than one year is beyond remarkable. Things will come together in time.”