Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced on Monday that state residents aged 16 and older could be eligible for the coronavirus vaccine starting April 5, accelerating the timeline for when Yale students could become immunized.
Public health experts at Yale now estimate that students could receive vaccinations throughout the month of April, starting on April 5. The state is expected to provide direct allocation to Yale to support student vaccinations, Professor Emeritus Sandy Bogucki, who sits on the Public Health Advisory Committee for Yale, told the News. But it is not yet clear how many vaccines will be provided or exactly when. As younger people become eligible for the vaccine, providers should offer the first slots to people with coronavirus risk factors, associate professor of epidemiology Luke Davis said. But the general population of Yale students should be able to get vaccinations by mid-to-late April, he added.
“If the tentative date becomes definite and the state allocates vaccine for students, as we believe likely, Yale Health will invite students to schedule at Lanman Center,” Director of Yale Health Paul Genecin told the News in an email.
The University has not yet determined the order by which it will invite people to schedule appointments, as the governor’s announcement came as a “pleasant surprise,” Medical Director for Infection Prevention at Yale New Haven Hospital Richard Martinello said. The University has previously used reverse alphabetical order to vaccinate students in the medical and nursing schools.
“I’m excited to hear that the governor is expecting for things to be opened up because it does give us, presumably, the opportunity to vaccinate undergrads and it would be wonderful to accomplish that before they head out for the end of the semester,” Martinello said.
Connecticut is using an age-based vaccine eligibility system, and is set to open scheduling to individuals aged 45 to 54 on March 19. On April 5, the state is set to then open scheduling for all individuals aged 16 to 34. Previously, those between the ages of 16 and 34 would only be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine starting on May 3.
Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, two of the three that have been granted FDA emergency use authorization, require two doses at least 21 days apart. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the only single-dose vaccine the FDA has authorized for use.
It is too soon to tell which company’s vaccine Yale will receive in the first week of April, Bogucki said. No vaccination site has any say on which brand they receive. But Martinello said he presumes the state is thinking about how students, who might leave the state in May, would benefit from the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Members of the Yale community will receive invitations to schedule their vaccine appointment through MyChart.
Although University-owned facilities, such as the Lanman Center, are being used by the Yale New Haven Health system to vaccinate the wider public, Genecin explained that Yale Health is only vaccinating members of the University community. This currently includes faculty, staff members and eligible students, in addition to others who are enrolled in the Yale Health plan.
However, Genecin emphasized that undergraduates are not limited to the Yale vaccine program to get immunized — if capacity becomes an issue, students, as well as anyone else who becomes eligible, can get vaccinated wherever they are able to make an appointment in the state.
Davis said that universities have a significant role to play in ensuring people connected to them can get vaccinations, as the student population is concentrated on and around campus and there are healthcare providers nearby. Once people leave campus, they might be less likely to take the steps to sign up for the shot, Davis said.
Davis said by April there might be more vaccines than demand, so hesitancy becomes the limiting factor in how many people are getting the vaccine. There might need to be more ambitious outreach efforts to understand people’s wariness of the vaccine. Among younger populations in particular, there might be more vaccine hesitancy, Davis said. Younger people might not see the risks of the coronavirus in the same way as older people or those with preexisting conditions.
Conversations among the Public Health Advisory Committee, which University COVID-19 Coordinator Stephanie Spangler chairs, have focused on vaccinating as many members of the University and YNHH as possible, as well as closely following the data to make sure they are vaccinating people from socially vulnerable communities, Martinello said.
The committee discussed the topic of mandating vaccinations, but any recommendations will “take into consideration current circumstances, as well as legal, ethical and equity issues once [the] vaccine has been freely available for a sufficient time to allow everyone to get immunized,” Bogucki wrote in an email to the News.
So far, demand far outstrips supply across the country. But Connecticut has fared significantly better than most states, ranking as 11th in the country for percentage of COVID-19 vaccines administered as of March 16, having injected 87 percent of doses received into arms. The state has also vaccinated 77 percent of people over 75, 71 percent of people between 65 and 74 and 40 percent of people between 55 and 64.
According to Reuters, President Joe Biden is in conversation with different countries to determine who will get any surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses from the U.S.
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