Pfizer vaccine vial

A vial of the COVID-19 vaccination manufactured by Pfizer. Each vial contains enough vaccine to treat five individuals. Sun file photo

About 600,000 Connecticut residents who are between 55 and 64 years old became eligible Monday for COVID-19 vaccinations, but Gov. Ned Lamont warned it could take more than three weeks for the majority of those people to get their first shot.

“We don’t have that many vaccines we’re getting on a weekly basis,” he said, urging residents to be patient as shipments continue to be delivered to the state from the federal government. “If we had followed the CDC guidelines, it would have been 1.8 million people and you would have been going out months."

A week ago, Lamont suddenly announced the state would continue with a mostly age-based rollout to avoid confusion and delays. Originally, the state planned to allow younger people with preexisting conditions and essential workers to sign up, but there were questions about which conditions and jobs to include.

Some criticized Lamont's decision, including from unions that represent janitors, supermarket workers, security officers and others. Also, disability rights advocates recently filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, calling on the agency to immediately investigate the new age-based policy, arguing it “constitutes disability discrimination in violation of federal law.”

The Lamont administration has made the argument that 96% of the COVID-associated deaths in Connecticut involved people over age 55.

Under Lamont's plan, the next group of people, an estimated 400,000 people age 45-54, will be eligible to make appointments on March 22. They'll be followed by an estimated 400,000 people age 35-44 years on April 12 and then everyone else 34 years and younger on May 3.

The only exception to Lamont's revised rollout has been for pre-K-12 school staff — including teachers, bus drivers, custodial staff and others — as well as professional childcare providers. That group, which is estimated to include about 150,000 people, will be getting their shots throughout March at dedicated clinics set up for them throughout the month, according to the administration. Some some districts have set up special hotlines for staff to make vaccination appointments and clinics are planned for this week.

Meanwhile, Lamont said Connecticut still expects this week to receive about 30,000 doses of the newly approved vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.

“And remember, when you get 30,000 doses of J&J, that’s equivalent of two doses of Pfizer and Moderna (vaccines),” Lamont said. “So it’s going to make a big difference and we’ll start getting those shots in the arm this week.”

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