Residents who are elderly or medically at-risk, as well as health care workers and other essential workers, will likely receive the first doses of an anticipated COVID-19 vaccine in Connecticut, according to a draft state distribution plan submitted Friday to the federal government.
The 77-page document, filed with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, outlines three possible phases for vaccine distribution in the state, predicting there could be limited supplies of a vaccine available sometime this fall. But state officials stressed that Connecticut's draft plan is subject to change, based on input from a newly formed advisory committee to Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont and changing federal advice.
“While we've put together this framework ... we've done this really with limited information about the actual vaccine itself and the requirements and populations,” said Dr. Deidre Gifford, the state's acting public health director, during a meeting held Thursday evening with the governor's advisory committee. “So we are doing our best to prepare but also knowing that we need to remain flexible and adapt as we get further information.”
Gifford said the state has already begun reaching out to potential vaccine providers across the state and planning for the three possible phases of distribution. The first phase, according to the plan, will likely involve hospitals, local health departments and districts, pharmacies and clinics that would focus on early vaccinations for priority groups. The Department of Public Health, for example, has been working with the Connecticut Hospital Association to recruit hospitals that would vaccinate their staffs and serve as central vaccination sites for other medical essential workers.
The plan also suggests off-site vaccination clinics and possibly mobile clinics for other essential workers, people with a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and residents of long-term care facilities.
Other groups identified in the draft plan as critical recipients of the vaccine include people from racial and ethnic minority groups, tribal communities, prisoners and people living in homeless shelters, college students, people living and working in other congregate settings, people with disabilities and those living in rural areas or who are uninsured.
In addition to those groups considered critical, the second and third phases are expected to involve vaccinating the general public, when there's a greater anticipated supply of the vaccine. This could happen in doctors' offices, clinics, pharmacies and local health centers. The plan also suggests that residents might need two doses of a vaccine and stresses the importance of educating the public about the distribution process.
In other coronavirus news in Connecticut:
Yale museums close
Yale University has closed two museums on campus, raised its alert status for the coronavirus and canceled athletic activities for the week after an outbreak infected at least 18 members of the men's ice hockey team.
The Yale University Art Gallery and Yale Center for British Art were closed on Friday, a day after the university moved from a green alert to a yellow alert, signaling low to moderate risk.
A COVID-19 coordinator for the Ivy League university, Dr. Stephanie Spangler, said in a memo to campus that the infected hockey players and others who worked with them had been instructed to quarantine. She instructed people not to bring visitors from outside Yale onto the campus.
“This recent cluster, coupled with news of increasing cases of COVID-19 in Connecticut, are reminders that the virus is present in our community and we must exercise vigilance and caution in all of our activities,” Spangler wrote.
The two museums were closed for an unspecified period. They each had reopened to the public on Sept. 25.
Nurses return to work
Nurses who went on a two-day strike amid disputes over pay and the availability of protective gear at a Norwich hospital have returned to work as contract negotiations continue.
More than 400 nurses went on strike this week at the William W. Backus Hospital in breakdown of contract talks between hospital management and the nurses’ union, which described struggles to get enough personal protective equipment.
Negotiations with Hartford HealthCare, which operates the hospital, were expected to resume on Friday, according to Backus President Donna Handley. She said licensed nurses from around the state provided care during the strike and patients were not put at risk.
Sherri Dayton, a Backus nurse and president of Local 5149, said hospital operations took a hit from the strike.
“It’s not business as usual in there, that’s for sure. They canceled elective surgeries for the two days of the strike, and they closed down two floors: progressive care and oncology,” Dayton said, according to The Day of New London.
The union and hospital management have been in contract negotiations since June.
Handley said before the strike nurses had been offered “significant” wage increases — 12.5% over three years — along with additional paid time off and a 2% decrease in health care premiums.
Backus nurses say they’re paid less than those at other area hospitals, while Backus is one of the most profitable hospitals in the state. They also say they have not had sufficient personal protective equipment during the pandemic and have had to repeatedly reuse gear including N95 masks.