Vaccine rollout hits milestone
1M+ state residents fully inoculated — but loss of J&J shot slowing effort
While the sidelining of the state’s supply of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is slowing vaccinations this week, Connecticut surpassed another milestone in its vaccine rollout: more than 1 million residents fully inoculated.
The state received a record 288,000 doses last week, largely attributed to an uptick in J&J supply, compared to 179,000 doses this week. The J&J vaccine is now on pause while federal health officials investigate a rare blood-clotting disorder that
emerged in six of the roughly 6.8 million recipients of the vaccine.
“If we had Johnson & Johnson this week, and we had more supply, we could vaccinate more people this week,” Josh Geballe, the state’s chief operating officer, said Thursday. “There’s people who have appointments right now for next week, for the week after who could’ve been brought forward.”
Lamont criticized the decision by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration to call for a pause on J&J’s use. The governor said he worries the move by the federal government could impede states’ efforts to convince those who are hesitant to get vaccinated.
It’s too soon to tell whether the pause will affect people’s willingness to roll up their sleeves and get a shot. But Lamont said a sign of that would be large numbers of people who signed up to get J&J not rescheduling their appointments to get one of the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
The J&J vaccine was “very popular up until a few days ago,” the governor said, “because you were one and done and it was easy to do.”
The J&J vaccine can be stored for at least three months at 36-46 degrees Fahrenheit, but Lamont is hoping the pause will be over long before that.
“I really hope that J&J is back on the market by early next week and that we can speed things up” the governor said.
The 67-year-old Lamont gave a shoutout to his age group — those 65 and older — for “breaking all records,” reaching 87% vaccination rate.
Lamont is hoping to replicate that trend in the state’s younger residents — “a cohort that feels a little less urgency to get vaccinated.”
Two weeks after the state opened eligibility to them, 34 percent of those between the ages of 16 and 44 have received at least one shot of a vaccine.
So far, the state has relied on trusted community members such as religious leaders to help convince those who are reluctant to get vaccinated. The state is targeting hard to reach populations with 35 mobile vaccine vans, 13 of which are on the streets today, which allow people to walk up and roll up their sleeves, no appointments needed.
In the future, Lamont is banking on restaurants and businesses eventually requiring proof of vaccination for entry as “one more incentive for more people to get vaccinated.”
But as the state faces more and more people who are not only reluctant, but unwilling to get vaccinated, it will need to step up its efforts.
“The work will get harder as we get into the end of April and May when we will have more supply than demand,” Geballe said.
Lamont said the latest data from the state showing a drop in coronavirus hospitalizations and daily positivity rate of 2.04 percent show things are stabilizing in the state and that the vaccines are working.
He noted two indications of the vaccines effectiveness.
The majority of those currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 have not been vaccinated, the governor said. Displaying a map showing the municipalities with the highest rates of new COVID-19 cases, such as Waterbury, the governor said these areas also have some of the lowest vaccination rates.