The state’s teachers and school staff are included in phase 1B of its vaccine distribution program expected to reach over 800,000 people in the coming weeks, including those over 75 years old, people living in congregate settings, and essential frontline workers.
In addition to educators, phase 1B also includes childcare workers, first reponders and public safety personnel, along with workers in transportation, direct care social services, food and grocery, agricultural and manufacturing. The recommendation also includes people who live in congregate settings, such as prisons, group homes and psychiatric facilities.
Word that teachers would be included in this next vaccination round was welcomed Friday by the state’s two largest teachers’ unions. The unions had vehemently opposed schools remaining open during the pandemic unless certain safety precautions were met. But state education officials had left the decisions up to district administrators.
The Connecticut Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers issued a joint statement praising the pending vaccine arrival and thanking Gov. Ned Lamont for “prioritizing the safety of students, teachers, and staff by ensuring that school employees are on the list to receive the vaccinations in this phase.”
The statement was signed by CEA President Jeff Leake and AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel. “The prompt vaccination of educators and school staff is critical to ensuring the safety of our school communities and expediting full in-person teaching and learning in Connecticut’s schools.”
The unions are meeting early next week with union presidents and members to share details of the administration’s plans, including innoculation sites and appointment scheduling.
“We appreciate the hard work of the governor’s Vaccine Advisory Group in dealing with this complicated and important issue,” the statement continued.
In Meriden, union President Lauren Mancini-Averitt said she would have more details about the rollout after a meeting on Monday.
The state’s Vaccine Advisory Group is finalizing details and may add groups for inclusion in Phase 1B. A final recommendation will be given to Lamont early next week.
Lamont cautioned against adding too many subgroups, because “you have to look at who you’re going to put at the end of the line.”
State and local public health officials are in talks with health care providers, commercial partners CVS and Walgreens, and employers over details of the upcoming vaccine distribution.
People in Phase 1B will be able to schedule appointments to get the vaccine in the next one to two weeks.
The prioritization program aims to minimize severe illness and death, protect frontline workers and ensure equity and access for disproportionally impacted populations, Lamont said.
Early data show that so far, 85 to 100% of nursing home residents opted to receive the vaccine. However 40 to 50% of nursing home staff and 50 to 70% of healthcare workers opted to get the vaccine.
Webinars and other educational materials including testimonials in multiple languages are being prepared in the hopes of convincing the public the vaccines are safe, state officials said. Public outreach events have been scheduled for next week. The state is in the final weeks of administering the second doses in the Phase 1A group, which covered healthcare workers and nursing home and assisted living facilities.
Logistics for the Phase 1B rollout are still being worked out, but state officials expressed confidence the state’s network of local public health agencies, healthcare and commercial providers can act quickly.
State officials have touted the state’s record in distributing more than 100,000 doses and told reporters Thursday the state could move quicker if it receives more supply.
On Friday President-elect Joe Biden’s office said it will release most available COVID-19 vaccine doses to speed delivery to more people. Both approved vaccines require two doses and the Trump administration had been hanging onto vaccine to ensure there were second doses available.
The city has currently been using the Senior Center on West Main Street to vaccinate local first responders and will likely continue to use the spot as a makeshift clinic during phase 1B.
Mayor Kevin Scarpati and city health officials are still waiting for more information on the rollout.
“The space allows us to social distance and we can monitor for 15 to 30 people.,” Scarpati said. “It limits the ability to rapid vaccinate.”
The state is developing a link that allows residents to see when they might be eligible for vaccination.
More information about the state’s vaccination plan can be found at https://portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus/covid-19%20vaccinations