Governor Lamont Announces Connecticut Will shift to Age-Based Approach to Covid-19 Vaccine Eligibility except for Educators and Childcare Providers
On February 22, Gov. Ned Lamont announced that he is shifting the state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout program strictly based on age for everyone other than school employees and childcare workers.
On February 22, Gov. Ned Lamont announced that he is shifting the state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout program strictly based on age for everyone other than school employees and childcare workers. The Governor broke away from his original plan, which those age 16 and over with certain chronic medical conditions were next in line to get the vaccine long with certain essential workers, such as grocery store workers. Instead of registering next for their shots, they will go to the back of the line.
“Age is one of the strongest factors contributing to COVID-19 deaths, with 96 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Connecticut occurring in people over the age of 55.” Said the Governor as he announced a schedule for age-based eligibility for the next several months. The planned schedule is as follows:
March 1, 2021: Expands to age group 55 to 64
March 22, 2021: Expands to age group 45 to 54
April 12, 2021: Expands to age group 35 to 44
May 3, 2021: Expands to age group 16 to 34
Governor Lamont also announced that he is directing the Connecticut Department of Public Health to set numerical targets and work with vaccine providers to ensure that vaccines are administered to people living in the highest-risk communities in proportion to their population.
In addition to the age-based eligibility, PreK-12 school staff and teachers, and professional childcare providers will be eligible to receive the vaccine in March at dedicated clinics set up specifically for those sectors. Educators and childcare professionals will soon receive information from their school administrators and employers on when their dedicated vaccine clinics will be provided.
According to the CT Mirror, Disability Rights Connecticut, a protection & advocacy system for individuals with disabilities in Connecticut, has filed a complaint with the U.S. Office for Civil Rights against the state and the governor “for discriminating against persons with disabilities” by not prioritizing them over the general population. The complaint, s filed on February 24, calls on the agency, which is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to “immediately investigate and issue findings on an expedited basis” that Connecticut’s age-based policy for vaccinating state residents “constitutes disability discrimination” that violates federal law.
The six-page complaint alleges that the rollout violates the Americans with Disabilities Act because, among other reasons, it imposes eligibility criteria for the vaccine that “discriminates against and unfairly burdens individuals with disabilities.” Ultimately, it accuses the state of “perpetuating discrimination against people with disabilities.”
The administration declined to comment on the complaint.
In a press release announcing the shift to distribution strictly based on age, Governor Lamont said, “In a perfect world, we would have enough doses of the vaccine to get it to all 3.6 million people in Connecticut right now. However, each state is being given a very limited supply, which is why we must take this phased approach.”
“Connecticut’s healthcare providers have been doing an amazing job getting the vaccine to people as quickly as they can, and using age as the only qualifying factor is one of the reasons why they’ve had success so far. The last thing we want to do is complicate the process for them and cause delays that slow things down and exacerbate issues regarding equitable access. A vaccination program of this magnitude is unprecedented in recent times, and I appreciate everyone’s understanding of the fluid nature of this situation. My goal is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible, and I believe this is the best path to meeting that challenge.”
Unions representing thousands of grocery store workers expressed their frustration with Gov. Ned Lamont’s decision not to prioritize the group in the next wave of coronavirus vaccinations to the media.
“We’re disgusted, we’re frustrated,” said Mark Espinosa, president of Local 919 of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, representing about 7,000 Stop & Shop grocery chain employees in Connecticut, told CT Mirror’s, Keith Phaneuf. “They are front-line employees. They are essential. Let’s face it, if they’re not in the stores, people are not eating.”
“Why a grocery store worker age 54 would not be prioritized when a healthy 55-year-old, with good health insurance and a higher-paying job that can be performed safely from home, is next in line for a vaccination?” asked Espinosa.
Connecticut has been using a phased approach to its COVID-19 vaccine program because of the minimal supply of the vaccine received from the federal government. The program initially began in December with healthcare providers and medical first responders and then expanded in January to include all individuals over the age of 75 and specific congregate settings, followed by those over 65 in mid-February. All previously eligible individuals and locations will continue to be eligible after March 1.
“We have been in the COVID-19 marathon for approaching a year, and now our race becomes a sprint to beat the variants of COVID-19 that are now circulating in the state and elsewhere and to return to a sense of normalcy for ourselves, our families, and our communities,” Connecticut Acting Public Health Commissioner Dr. Deidre Gifford, who also serves as co-chair of the Governor’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group, said. “The Department of Public Health is committed to an equitable vaccination program. Sticking with an age-based vaccine rollout allows our vaccine providers to get as many shots as possible as quickly and equitably as possible into the arms of Connecticut residents, and vaccinating our education and childcare workforce will get our children back in the classroom this school year.”
All eligible individuals in Connecticut are required to make an appointment in advance of receiving the vaccine. Residents aged 55 to 64 should not attempt to make an appointment now – they will not be able to schedule one until the program expands to their age group on March 1.
To locate vaccination clinics, individuals should visit ct.gov/covidvaccine and enter their zip code. From there, users will be shown the nearest available clinics and provided with specific directions on making an appointment at each one, including over the internet and over the telephone.
Insurance is not needed, but if you have insurance, the provider may bill the insurance company for administrative costs. You also have the option of entering no insurance information. Regardless of insurance status, the patient does not bear any cost.
Connecticut currently receives weekly shipments of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and could receive 30,000 doses of the new COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson by the end of February, as it is the latest vaccine to receive emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Those who do not have access to the internet can call Connecticut’s Vaccine Appointment Assist Line at 877-918-2224. The line is open seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.