How new CT COVID vaccination plan compares to nearby states

Photo of Amanda Cuda
In this Jan. 21, 2021, file photo a medical staff member prepares the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Tudor Ranch in Mecca, Calif. Connecticut has announced its schedule for vaccinating people against COVID-19. But what's happening in nearby states?

In this Jan. 21, 2021, file photo a medical staff member prepares the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Tudor Ranch in Mecca, Calif. Connecticut has announced its schedule for vaccinating people against COVID-19. But what’s happening in nearby states?

Jae C. Hong / Associated Press

Gov. Ned Lamont on Monday released new guidelines for how the COVID-19 vaccine will now be distributed in Connecticut.

The governor shifted away from previous plans to prioritize frontline essential workers and those with underlying medical conditions to focus on age groups and educators. Lamont’s plan deviates from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that other states are following.

Among those sticking to the CDC plan is New York, which is continuing to prioritize essential workers and medically compromised individuals.

Could this inspire a wave of Connecticut residents coming into New York for vaccine? Maybe, said George Latimer, county executive for Westchester County. But Latimer said he isn’t concerned, as long as those seeking vaccine either work or live in New York.

“As a border county with Connecticut, we’re very conscious of people crossing the border back and forth very easily,” he said. “We are already comfortable vaccinating (people employed in New York who live in Connecticut). If, for instance, you’re a bus driver who works in Westchester, and you live in Stamford, we want you to be vaccinated because you interact with New Yorkers.”

Like other officials, Latimer is worried about meeting the demand for vaccine, but he’s not as concerned about the effect Connecticut border-crossers will have on the vaccine supply.

“We’re more concerned about meeting the demand than about worrying who gets it,” Latimer said.

According to Lamont’s plan, the following groups can begin registering for COVID vaccines on these dates:

March 1: Ages 55 to 64; and educators and child care providers

March 22: Ages 45 to 54

April 12: Ages 35 to 44

May 3: Ages 16 to 34

Here’s a look at how some nearby states are handling COVID-19 vaccine distribution:

New York

Like Connecticut, New York focused on older adults, health care workers and first responders in its early vaccination stages. But New York has been quicker to prioritize frontline workers.

According to the state website, eligible New Yorkers in Phase 1A and 1B include residents age 65 and older, firefighters, police, school employees, transportation workers, and the staff of hospitals and federally qualified health centers.

Also eligible were restaurant workers, restaurant delivery drivers and “public facing grocery store workers, including convenience store and bodega workers” — categories that will not be prioritized in Connecticut.

As of Feb. 15, New York also expanded eligibility to those 16 and older with the following conditions: cancer (current or in remission, including 9/11-related cancers); chronic kidney disease; pulmonary disease; intellectual and developmental disabilities, including Down Syndrome; heart conditions, including but not limited to heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, or hypertension (high blood pressure); immunocompromised state (weakened immune system); obesity and severe obesity; pregnancy; sickle cell disease or Thalassemia; type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus; cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain); neurological conditions, including but not limited to dementia, and liver disease.

Jonah Bruno, director of public information for the New York Department of Health, said the state has used about 90 percent of the doses it has received.

“Different states will of course take different approaches, but we believe our prioritization — which includes both the most vulnerable New Yorkers based on age and underlying health conditions and essential workers like health care heroes, police officers, firefighters, teachers, taxi drivers, and grocery and restaurant workers — is the right system for New York right now,” he said. “Currently, over 10 million New Yorkers can get vaccinated, representing roughly two-thirds of all individuals who are potentially eligible.”

New Jersey

Like New York, New Jersey is also prioritizing frontline workers and those with underlying medical conditions. According to its website, New Jersey is already offering vaccines to many in these groups, and is already prioritizing one group that isn’t on New York’s list — smokers.

Smoking is on the CDC list of underlying conditions that can put people at higher risk for serious illness from COVID, but it’s garnered criticism for multiple reasons, including that it’s hard to prove whether someone is a smoker.

New Jersey also offers more guidance for pregnant woman and those in an immunocompromised state from solid organ transplant, stating people in those groups are eligible for the vaccine but “should follow CDC guidance and first discuss vaccination with their medical provider before receiving the vaccine.”

New Jersey plans to expand eligibility to more frontline workers and additional groups of high-risk individuals.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island’s model for prioritizing is closer to Connecticut’s plan than other nearby states, largely focusing on age. Rhode Island began by vaccinating health care workers and first responders, and moved on to vaccinating people by age group, starting with those 75 and older.

Those 65 and older became eligible for vaccination this week and Rhode Island residents 60 to 64 will likely be able to register in mid-March. Vaccination for the younger group, those 16 to 39, is expected to start in June.

However, unlike in Connecticut, those will underlying medical conditions are still being prioritized in Rhode Island. Beginning in mid-March, the state is expected to start vaccinating those 16 to 64 with conditions such as diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, and kidney disease.