Connecticut will now determine COVID-19 vaccination priority by age — with the exception of school employees.
State residents 55 and older will be eligible for the inoculation starting next Monday, according to Gov. Ned Lamont.
The move flies in the face of federal guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as Lamont’s own advisors, who recommend prioritizing people with health conditions.
Under the new rules, residents between 45 and 54 can get their first shots starting on March 26. That expands to Connecticuters between 35 and 44 on April 12, and those between 16 to 34 on May 3.
Educators and school staff of all ages will also be eligible starting in March.
“In a perfect world, we would have enough doses of the vaccine to get it to all 3.6 million people in Connecticut right now, however each state is being given a very limited supply, which is why we must take this phased approach,” Lamont said.
“My goal is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible, and I believe this is the best path to meeting that challenge.”
In a press conference Monday, Lamont said the new plan will allow the state to continue administering doses with some of the fastest speeds in the country, while reducing the complications that came with what Lamont called with a long and incomplete list of qualifying medical conditions.
Sixteen percent of Connecticut residents have received at least one dose, making it the fifth best performing state in the union at administering vaccinations, according to the CDC. The national average is 13 percent.
“I started thinking about what has worked so far,” Lamont said at the news conference. “We found a close correlation between age and risk.”
“Keep it simple, stupid,” Lamont said. “A lot of complications result from states that try to finely slice the salami and it got very complicated to administer.”
When asked by reporters if the new policy circumvented public opinion and the advice of experts, one of the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group co-chairs said he thinks the method will actually work so well, it will soon be copied by other states.
“I’m comfortable that we have well represented the opinions of people in the community as best we could, there’s no perfect answer,” Dr. Reginald Eadie said.
Officials also announced measures they hope will make distribution more equitable.
Data analyzed by the Hartford Courant in early February suggested a steep racial divide in the distribution of vaccines.
Child care workers, 45 percent of whom are minorities, will be included with educators and be moved to the front of the line under the new rules, Lamont said.
Doses will also be set aside for communities with high social vulnerability indices, and officials said providers will reach out to those communities.
“Not only do we want to see you operating in those communities, we want to see the doses going to individuals that live in those communities. And those are two different things,” acting Public Health Commissioner Dr. Deidre Gifford told vaccine providers.