Connecticut residents age 75 and older will be able to begin signing up for COVID-19 vaccination appointments next week, a process Gov. Ned Lamont promised on Monday will be more orderly than in states where senior citizens have waited outdoors in long lines.
The Democrat said vaccines will be administered by appointment only and people will be able to sign up online or by telephone, tentatively beginning Jan. 18. Information about the appointment system is expected to be released later this week.
Meanwhile, medical organizations across the state are also planning to reach out to many eligible for Phase 1B, urging them to get vaccinated. Some of that advanced registration work is expected to begin Thursday.
“I think you’ve seen the pictures from Florida and other places - first come, first serve, everybody over 55 come and join - but that’s not the way it’s going to work," Lamont said, adding that officials are “doing this carefully just so we can measure the flow in.”
There are already more than 100 vaccination sites across the state, said Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer. The state is planning to move into more broad-based, appointment-only vaccination clinics soon, as well. The first one, Lamont said, is expected to open at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, where the UConn football team plays, in the next 10 days. Other large sites are being considered as well.
“So once we get our vaccination site launched, you’ll be able to see that and you’ll be able to see where the closest places to you, just like we were able to do with testing," he said. People should not contact their own doctors for vaccination appointments.
To ensure people don't fall through the cracks, Griffin Hospital in Derby and other hospital groups are using various methods to find eligible candidates, beyond reaching out to those who may have been patients or had medical tests done.
Patrick Charmel, president and CEO of Griffin Hospital, said his facility is working with local social service agencies, housing authorities, churches and other services such as Meals on Wheels to locate people who meet the criteria and are at the highest risk for contracting COVID-19.
“There is a concern that if we open it up as first come, first serve, we wouldn’t be able to manage the demand,” Charmel said. “And I think it would create a negative scenario and will discourage people from coming out.”
As of Monday, there have been 133,190 first doses of the vaccine and 7,866 second doses administered during Phase 1A, which includes front-line health care workers, nursing home residents and staff.
A vaccine distribution advisory subcommittee is scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss more details of Phase 1B, which, besides those 75 years and older, is expected to include certain front-line workers. There has been a lot interest in adding people 65 years and older, as well as younger with certain medical conditions, to Phase 1B, but Lamont expressed his concerns with further expanding that phase at this point.
“Look, adding more groups just means other people get pushed to the back of the line. It’s not like I’m increasing my vaccine capacity,” he said. “If everybody’s a priority then nobody’s a priority.”