The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

‘Masks are our friends’

State’s public health chief talks COVID-19, vaccinatio­ns in webinar

- By Nicholas Rondinone and Tara O’Neill

Responding to objections from doctors who want to provide COVID-19 vaccinatio­ns within their own offices, the state’s top public health official said Thursday she expects primary care physicians to be able to offer inoculatio­ns by late summer or early fall.

The Connecticu­t State Medical Society is raising the concern, pointing to difficulti­es some patients have finding vaccine appointmen­ts — and to the bond of trust between doctor and patient that could coax some hesitant people to get the vaccinatio­n.

“The most obvious problem to us is that the doctor’s offices were kind of left out of the process,” said Dr. Robert Russo, executive director of the medical society and a Fairfield radiologis­t, in a call Tuesday. “One of the difficulti­es with some of our elderly patients is their inability to get on the computer and to hunt for a place to get the vaccine.”

Russo and other officials said they had understood early on that they may receive some doses for their patients. “These elderly or non-computer literate patients would’ve been able to go to the doctor to get a shot,” Russo said.

In a webinar with Hearst Connecticu­t Media’s Dan Haar on Facebook Live Thursday morning, Acting state Public Health Commission­er Dr. Deidre Gifford said as supply expands, the state will be able to include these primary care providers.

“I understand and appreciate very much that they want to help us get people vaccinated and we are moving in that direction but I acknowledg­e probably not with the speed that many of the primary care providers want to see,” Gifford said. “It seems likely that would happen in the late summer or fall time frame.”

It remains unclear how often people will need to get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster, but

Gifford said, “Covid vaccines are going to be with us for a very long time, as is Covid.”

Including private-practice, primary care physicians in the COVID-19 vaccinatio­n program comes with several hurdles. The Pfizer vaccine must be kept in ultra-cold storage and the Moderna vaccine also requires subfreezin­g conditions until it’s used. Both also come in vials with multiple doses.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which don’t require such precise handling, began arriving this week, but in smaller numbers than the first two.

Doctor’s visits could also add cost to the vaccinatio­n program, which is now largely done at mass and large-scale locations.

When asked about it Thursday during Gov. Ned Lamont’s news briefing, Chief of Staff Josh Geballe said the state will probably move to distributi­on through

these offices when demand levels off.

“It’s something that I think we will eventually get to,” Geballe said. “When you start giving out that discretion, where do you draw the lines? You end up with these little pockets of unused inventory all over the place.”

In the Hearst webinar, Gifford urged those who became eligible for the vaccine under the state’s latest rollout phase this week to be patient with the appointmen­t process after hearing that some residents have appointmen­ts scheduled in April and May. She suggested waiting a few days to check for earlier appointmen­ts.

“We’re not saying wait to get vaccinated, we’re saying wait a day or two before you jump into the queue,” to try to book an appointmen­t, Gifford said. “We definitely want everyone age 55 to 64 to get vaccinated as quickly as possible.”

 ?? H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticu­t Media ?? Connecticu­t Public Health Commission­er Dr. Deidre Gifford.
H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticu­t Media Connecticu­t Public Health Commission­er Dr. Deidre Gifford.

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