Connecticut coronavirus update: State launches FEMA's 1st-in-the-nation mobile vaccine unit

Connecticut coronavirus update
BRIDGEPORT, Connecticut (WABC) -- Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont on Monday announced the deployment of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's first-in-the-nation COVID-19 mobile vaccination unit.

The state was selected by FEMA to be the first in the country to receive one of these units, which consists of two mobile trailers.

"We have made a commitment, and that commitment is to ensure no community is left behind," said Jeff Flaks, with Hartford Healthcare.

It will be on loan to the state for the next 60 days, and it will be deployed to targeted communities based on the social vulnerability index.

Lamont hopes it will help provie easy access to ensure that everyone who wants a vaccine can get one.

"Keeping yourself safe, keeping you family safe, that's what it means when you get vaccinated," he said. "And we're doing everything we can to make it easier and easier to get vaccinated."

The unit will is holding its first clinic at the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport, where hundreds lined up Monday for a Johnson & Johnson shot.

They were met by a team of medical professional, and in minutes, they were on their way after having difficulty getting appointments elsewhere.

"I think it's great," newly vaccinated Glinda Lucas said. "I had a hard time getting an appointment. This was way easier to get there today."

The mobile van will vaccinate more than 3,400 in the state's underserved communities, helping push the state toward a goal of nearly 40% of the population vaccinated in the coming weeks.

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The state is preparing for its biggest eligibility expansion yet this week, with vaccinations expected to be open to all adults beginning Thursday.

The plan has received some criticism and raised questions about how adults with high-risk medical conditions will be prioritized when the expansion is based on age only.

State officials have said the age-based approach will streamline the rollout.

State Chief Operating Officer Josh Geballe said previously the state is planning "dedicated clinics" for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are considered more at risk, the New Haven Register reported.

"We're working in collaboration to identify the width of the at-risk groups and how we'll prioritize them," Kathy Silard, president and CEO of Stamford Health, told the newspaper.

The state expects to receive an increase of first doses to 200,000 per week.

"With 200,000 doses coming in a week you can do the math and kind of understand quickly that we'll be in a position in a relatively short period of time, probably before the end of April, where everyone in the state who wants to get a vaccine will have the ability to get one," Geballe told the newspaper.

Thursday's expanded eligibility also makes the vaccine available to minors, though only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been approved for people younger than 18.

President Joe Biden has ordered that all states, U.S. territories and tribal nations to make the vaccine available to all adults by May 1.

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It all comes after the state announced that workers will go door to door in 10 Connecticut cities starting this spring, urging residents to get vaccinated.

Hartford-based Grossman Solutions will oversee the $2.9 million outreach effort under an agreement with Lamont's administration.

"The door-to-door canvassing program will focus on knocking on doors in areas of need and getting residents scheduled for vaccination appointments," Lamont's office said in a press release.

The program also will promote mobile and pop-up clinics and "work to assist residents in hosting virtual house parties with their friends and neighbors to help ensure residents have the facts about the COVID-19 vaccine and can share their experiences," the governor's office said.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health also announced a $5.3 million plan to expand call center services for the state's Vaccine Appointment Assist Line. Access Health CT, a quasi-public state agency, will amend a contract with Faneuil, Inc. to target communities high on the social vulnerability index or SVI.

"Our continued goal is to ensure that every resident of Connecticut who wants a shot gets a shot, especially our residents in underserved and vulnerable communities," acting Heath Commissioner Deidre Gifford said.

The door-to-door program will prioritize Black and Latino neighborhoods in Bridgeport, New Haven, Stamford, Hartford, Waterbury, Norwalk, Danbury, New Britain, Bristol and Meriden, according to job postings on Grossman Solutions' website.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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