'Mad dash' expected as 600,000 in CT can make vaccine appointments Monday

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Public health officials in Connecticut are expecting a “mad dash” as more than 600,000 people become eligible Monday to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“I think there’s going to be a run on the bank,” said Ohm Deshpande, Yale New Haven Health’s vice president for population health and a physician leader for the provider’s vaccination efforts. “We are not going to have enough vaccine to meet that need next week.”

But, if expectations of both demand and supply bear out, there should be enough vaccine doses to inoculate everyone eligible who wants to be vaccinated.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced an age-based series of phases, each lasting about three weeks. Up first are patients ages between 55 and 64, who are eligible to sign up Monday.

That group consists of about 515,000 people in Connecticut, but teachers and other school-based workers — who will be eligible on that day — add another 160,000 possible patients.

Take away the approximately 63,000 people in those groups who have already been vaccinated and you’re left with 610,000 Connecticut residents eligible to be vaccinated starting this week.

But Josh Geballe, Connecticut’s chief operating officer, said he expects 60 percent of those eligible to take advantage of the vaccine in the first weeks. That means the state expects to set approximately 360,000 vaccine appointments over the following three weeks.

Expected first doses the week of March 1

State allocation: 108,120

Pfizer: 42,120

Moderna: 35,800

Johnson & Johnson: 30,200

Federal Retail Pharmacy Program: 22,900

Total expected doses: 131,020

Deshpande said though the scale is higher, Yale New Haven Health is prepared to handle the press of appointments, and will “open up schedules where we can through March.”

“It’s a juggling act but we’ll do the best we can,” he said. “There will be a mad dash but this is something that we’ve seen with other phases.”

The state does expect to be able to meet demand, assuming demand remains at expected levels and that supply steadily increases over the ensuing months.

“We are expecting just north of 131,000 first doses for next week and at least that weekly amount, in the coming weeks,” said Department of Public Health spokesperson Maura Fitzgerald. “The supply being sent to us has been steadily rising in the past few weeks, and we anticipate that to continue.”

The 131,020 doses expected for this week 1 includes 42,120 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, 35,800 of the Moderna vaccine and 30,200 doses of the vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson, which was recommended for approval by a panel advising the Federal Drug Administration. The FDA granted emergency use authorization Saturday evening.

An anticipated 22,900 doses are going directly to pharmacies in Connecticut under the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.

State officials warn the allocation from Johnson & Johnson may not be repeated until after the company ramps up production.

Those numbers are for first doses only, and do not include second doses which are counted separately. The state expects another 76,390 second doses from Pfizer and Moderna, bringing Connecticut’s total expected vaccine allocation for the week to 207,410. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine requires only one dose.

To date, the state has received 581,100 first doses and 370,300 second doses, for a total of 951,400 vaccine doses received between Dec. 14 and Feb. 28.

The 131,000 doses expected each week in March should be enough, assuming it holds out or increases over the three weeks before residents ages 45 and up become eligible to make vaccine appointments on March 22. But Fitzgerald acknowledged demand is outstripping supply at the moment.

“At the moment, we have more demand than supply, so we haven’t reached the point where we’re figuring out how many doses we need to order,” she said. “Right now, we’ll take whatever the federal government will give us and will gladly accept more. Whatever the federal government gives us, we can handle and get into arms.”

Deshpande said he expects the demand to ease off after March. There will be a segment of every cohort that will wait to sign up, including the 610,000 eligible teachers and residents ages 55 and over.

There are 480,600 people between 45 and 54 years old in Connecticut according to Census data. They become eligible to sign up for vaccines on March 22. The 427,000 Connecticut residents between 35 and 44 years old become eligible on April 12.

The largest group, 875,000 people between the ages of 16 and 34, can make appointments starting May 3.

But an increasing level of supply will ease that burden as time goes on.

“March is going to be the last month with real constraints,” Deshpande said.