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State grants high risk younger people accelerated COVID vaccine access

Starting Thursday not only will some people have accelerated access, but everyone will be eligible

HARTFORD, Conn. — A little more than a month ago, Gov. Ned Lamont announced that Connecticut would prioritize the COVID vaccine based on age, leaving people with co-morbidities upset. So then why now is the state suddenly prioritizing these people?

Starting Thursday not only will some people have accelerated access, but everyone will be eligible. It doesn’t mean you’ll get an appointment right away, but it shouldn’t take more than a few weeks.

"We all feel like we are being abandoned with the co-morbidities," said Sarah Morton of Shelton in February when the state announced an age-based system. That was then, this is now. "We wanted to make a special effort to talk about those medically most at risk," said Gov. Lamont at Monday's news conference.

Starting this Thursday, April 1st people ages 16-44 with sickle cell, who are on kidney dialysis, are being treated for cancer, need an organ transplant, or have Down syndrome will be given accelerated access to the COVID vaccine. So why now, and not then? Connecticut Chief Operating Officer Josh Geballe said, "There’s one big difference now, everyone is eligible. So, you don’t have to worry about Doctors notes, complexes eligibility screening and the issues providers were worried would slow them down."

The CDC’s February list of comorbidities would have put more than 2.2-million residents into a queue — at a time when vaccine supply was very limited. This week, Connecticut’s vaccine supply stands at 240,000 first doses alone. "If you are on one of those other CDC lists not listed here, we are confident that there is going to be enough vaccine," said Geballe.

The state is also allowing Connecticut Children’s and Yale Children’s Hospitals to vaccinate all their patients. And the Department of Developmental Services will hold dedicated clinics for the intellectually and developmentally disabled. CT Children’s has already sent emails to 6,000 people they’ve identified. "That email will then give them instructions on how to register through my chart," said Dr. Juan Salazar, the Chief Physician at Connecticut Children's Hospital.

They will be holding a dedicated clinic on April 5th. "Very specifically we have set up a location within our main building at 282 Washington Street," said Salazar.

The groups slated for accelerated access total about 10,000 people including Lauren Doninger’s son. "I have a 31-year-old son who has had a double lung transplant and his is not a unique story," said Doninger, of Hamden. "If he gets COVID he can’t survive it and there are a lot of people in that situation."

Many people with high-risk conditions have been telling us they’ve been putting off the healthcare because they are afraid of getting COVID. They’ll soon be able to breathe a little easier.

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