With supply increasing, state to make COVID vaccines more accessible

Photo of Julia Bergman
A pharmacist at Hartford Hospital holds the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

A pharmacist at Hartford Hospital holds the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

Jessica Hill / Associated Press

With supply of the COVID-19 vaccines still on track to outstrip demand in Connecticut by the end of the month, the state is thinking up creative ways it can target those who are reticent or who may not have easy access to getting a shot.

Nearly every pharmacy in the state, including those located in supermarkets, are administering the vaccines.

Right now, you need an appointment to get vaccinated at those sites. But very soon, people will be able to stop in to get vaccinated without an appointment while out doing their grocery shopping, said Josh Geballe, the state’s chief operating officer.

This week, the state started to deploy supply of the vaccine to larger primary care physician practices. By the end of next month, the state expects to expand that effort to more of these practices, “so when someone is in for their regular check up, they can get vaccinated on the spot,” Geballe said.

Nearly half the state’s residents aged 16 and older have received their first doses of the vaccine, Gov. Ned Lamont reported Thursday. The state is currently vaccinating between 40,000 and 50,000 people per day, Geballe said.

While the percentage of older residents who are fully vaccinated continues to increase, with those 65 and above at 82%, the most recent age group to be eligible for the vaccine, those between the ages of 16 and 44, is at 23%.

“A lot of young people tend to feel invincible or immune to COVID-19,” said Sen. Will Haskell, D-New Canaan, who joined the governor at his virtual coronavirus briefing Thursday.

Haskell and dozens of his peers showed up at a vaccination clinic in Stamford this week to roll up their sleeves.

Young people might not feel the same sense of urgency as other populations to get vaccinated, Haskell said, “but we also know that this virus, it uses young bodies.”

“Even if we don’t get sick ourselves, it travels through us to reach our more vulnerable family members, our parents, our grandparents,” he said. “It reaches the students and the teachers in our classroom who maybe can’t get vaccinated due to an underlying condition.”

Haskell and Ed Ford Jr., Republican councilman in Middletown, called on their peers to sign up for appointments, and when they do, to tell their friends to do the same, and to post on social media about their experiences.

“We need to do our part and play our role and we need to get vaccinated,” said Ford.

Ford said his experience contracting COVID-19, which resulted in him spiking a fever of 103 and losing his sense of taste and smell for three weeks, was one of the main reasons he got vaccinated this week..

On Thursday, the state reported a 2.41% positivity rate on new COVID-19 tests. Hospitalizations increased by a net of one patient to 515 statewide. An additional five deaths were reported for a total of 7,940.

Lamont said the state is seeing COVID-19 hot spots along the Naugatuck Valley including in Waterbury, Bethlehem, and New Milford, among other places.

The governor said he’s not sure what’s causing the spikes in those areas but said the state would be sending in its mobile vaccination vans, starting with Waterbury, which has 69.3 cases per 100,000 residents. Geballe said the state is still conducting contract tracing for every positive case that is reported.