Half of CT health districts have received COVID vaccines

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Local health departments have administered more than 7,500 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, though some — including a few in major cities — are still waiting for their first shipment to arrive and others are dealing with hiccups in distributing them efficiently.

According to the state Department of Public Health, 48 of Connecticut’s 65 health districts are enrolled in the COVID-19 vaccine program.

Of those enrolled, 32 had received doses of vaccine as of Wednesday, according to Maura Fitzgerald, a spokeswoman with DPH. Fitzgerald said it’s hard to know how many doses are received by each district, because the amount in each shipment is generally combined with those given to hospitals, clinics and federally qualified health centers.

New Fairfield, Brookfield, Darien, New Canaan, Greenwich, Waterbury and West Haven are among the health departments and districts that have requested, but have not yet received shipments of the vaccine.

Fitzgerald said there are a variety of reasons why the doses have not been received. For instance, she said the doses are delivered directly from the federal government and it can be a complicated process getting them in the hands of the districts.

The rollout comes as the state recorded 3,236 new COVID-19 cases Friday while the positivity rate jumped to 8.46 percent out of 38,262 tests. There were 22 more hospitalizations, bringing the statewide total to 1,109. There were also 37 more deaths, increasing the statewide death toll to 6,324.

After receiving its initial shipment of vaccines this week, Bridgeport opened its first clinic on Friday. Tammy Papa, Bridgeport’s acting deputy director of health operations, said the city “will make every effort to keep our residents and employees informed of updates” of when they will be eligible to be vaccinated.

“Like other agencies across the state, we are awaiting additional information from the state of Connecticut as to when we can begin to offer vaccines to our critical workforce and front-line employees, which are expected to be classified under Phase 1B and 1C (the state is in the process of vaccinating those in Phase 1A),” Papa said.

Meanwhile, other communities like Brookfield are still waiting for their first shipment of vaccines.

Dr. Raymond Sullivan, Brookfield’s director of health, attributed the delay to “stringent requirements that federal and state authorities have placed upon local health departments.”

He said most of the issues are related to the proper storage and handling of the vaccine, which must be kept in extreme cold.

“The federal requirements are far more stringent this time around, compared to how easy things were in 2009, when we were called upon to administer vaccines during the H1N1 pandemic,” Sullivan said. “I am assuming this is related to protecting every single precious dose, assuring minimization of waste.”

He said the district has requested about 100 doses of the vaccine, which he hopes to receive and distribute some time next week.

Those districts enrolled in the program are handling the vaccinations themselves, Fitzgerald said, but all health districts had to submit a vaccine plan to the state. Those not enrolled in the state’s program likely have an alternative way of distributing the vaccine, she said, such as partnering with another district or a health agency.

Health districts in most of the state’s major cities had received vaccine doses, including New Haven, Bridgeport, Hartford, Stamford, Danbury and Norwalk.

Taylor O’Brien, a spokeswoman in the Danbury mayor’s office, said the city’s department of health and human services received 300 doses of the Moderna vaccine Dec. 23, and another 300 on Jan. 4.

O’Brien also reported that the city had received an additional 200 doses from a federally qualified health center that wasn’t able to use them.

“We are incredibly proud to serve as one of the few vaccination clinics in the greater Danbury area, and will continue to do our part to end this pandemic,” she said.

New Haven anticipated vaccinating 1,550 people this week, said Maritza Bond, the city’s director of public health. She said there have not been any issues with getting people vaccinated in the highest priority group.

In Middletown, health officials caused a stir when the mayor, chief of staff and other municipal employees got vaccinated ahead of schedule. The city’s acting health director Kevin Elak said there were four or five leftover doses of vaccine following the first two days of clinics that needed to be used before they expired.

“After that, we kind of had to go back to the drawing board” and figure out how to schedule clinics so there wouldn’t be leftover doses, Elak said.

He said, after that, the city hasn’t had any leftover doses.