Op-Ed: The vaccine challenge ahead

This week, Connecticut takes a massive step forward in its vaccine allocation plan: All individuals over the age of 75 are now eligible for a vaccination. While residents over the age of 65, frontline workers and folks with certain health conditions will also be included in Phase 1B, seniors are taking a priority in our state’s effort to save lives.

My colleagues and I in Hartford, along with Gov. Lamont’s entire administration, owe it to our constituents to provide the most efficient, user friendly vaccine distribution possible. At the same time, we know that this process will not go smoothly without the cooperation and understanding of Connecticut residents.

In that light, here a few things to keep in mind as we move forward.

First, remember that vaccine distribution is a massive, statewide project. I am proud that Connecticut has already vaccinated a higher portion of residents than nearly any other state, but the vast majority of vaccinations are still ahead of us. Be patient, and understand that even if someone is vaccinated ahead of you, you stand to benefit from their immunity.

Second, be sure to help friends, neighbors, and family members who are eligible to receive the vaccination. Many of those who will receive the vaccine in the next month are well into their 80s and 90s — if you can, offer to help them schedule their appointment, drive them to a vaccine clinic, or reassure them about the benefits of vaccination. Those who aren’t comfortable using a computer can book an appointment by calling 877-918-2224 on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Third, do not try to skip ahead in the vaccine line or participate in a phase for which you do not qualify. Already, there have been scattered reports of Connecticut residents inputting an incorrect age in order to receive an earlier vaccination appointment. Not only is such behavior unethical, it also muddies the state’s vaccine management process and delays everyone’s doses.

Finally, I should note that while both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are proven safe and effective, the state of Connecticut has no plans to mandate the vaccine for those who are unwilling to voluntarily receive it. Demand currently exceeds supply, and we have months of voluntary immunizations ahead of us.

There is no doubt that there will be unforeseen obstacles and headaches over the next few months. Inoculating 3.5 million residents of the state is an unprecedented public health project, and road bumps are inevitable. But with that said, every day that passes and every shot that enters someone’s arm is another step closer to a re-opened economy, fully in-person schools, and all of the small joys and pleasures of our post-pandemic future.

Will Haskell is a state senator representing District 26, which encompasses the towns of Bethel, Redding, Ridgefield, Wilton and parts of Weston, Westport and New Canaan.