Prioritizing teachers in new COVID vaccination plan 'welcome news' in Fairfield

Photo of Katrina Koerting
A nurse fills a syringe with a shot of COVID-19 vaccine at the vaccination clinic set up in the gymnasium of the Bigelow Center for Senior Activities, in Fairfield, Conn. Jan. 27, 2021.

A nurse fills a syringe with a shot of COVID-19 vaccine at the vaccination clinic set up in the gymnasium of the Bigelow Center for Senior Activities, in Fairfield, Conn. Jan. 27, 2021.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

FAIRFIELD — Local officials were pleased to hear teachers will now be among the next recipients for the COVID vaccine.

Pre-K-Grade 12 school staff and teachers and professional child care providers will be eligible to receive the vaccine in March at clinics reserved for these professions.

“We are pleased that the state has recognized the importance of providing vaccines to all teachers and school support staff,” said Andrea Clark, a spokeswoman for the Fairfield school district.

She said the town’s health department will hold a vaccination clinic on Monday for staff and support members of the Fairfield public and private schools.

Eligible teachers and staff were already enrolled through the district and can now schedule their appointments through the Vaccine Administration Management System, Clark said.

Essential workers and people with co-morbidities had been considered as part of the next group, but on Monday Gov. Ned Lamont announced those two categories presented a lot of challenges and questions about who would qualify.

Instead, the state expanded vaccine eligibility to the schools and child care, as well as those 55 to 64 years old beginning March 1.

Lamont said 96 percent of the COVID-related deaths occurred in those over the age of 50.

“Age is a key determinant in terms of risk of fatalities, complications, hospitalizations — all of the things we’re desperately trying to avoid,” he said.

The new plan expands to those 45 and older on March 22, those at least 35 on April 12 and those at least 16 on May 3.

“It was welcome news,” First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick said Monday.

The Fairfield Health Department had administered 8,679 vaccines to those eligible as of Friday and has an additional 4,900 appointments scheduled over the next four weeks, Kupchick said in her weekly update.

“The Fairfield Health Department's vaccine clinic continues to fill up their appointments,” she wrote. “They can only schedule as many appointments as vaccines are provided by the state. Please keep in mind Fairfield residents are able to book appointments at clinics throughout the state.”

On Monday, she said she hopes the expanded eligibility also comes with more vaccines, so the town can meet the demand.

She reminded residents to contact the town’s COVID call center with any questions or if they need help using VAMS.

“Hopefully, we’ll get through this, Selectman Thomas Flynn said. “It’s been a long slog.”

While the last age breakdown includes older high school students, Clark said it was too soon to say what this could mean for end-of-the-year events, such as graduation and prom.

“While beginning the vaccination process for teachers and staff is encouraging, we continue to monitor the health data and it is premature to start speculating about end-of-year events,” Clark said.

She also didn’t say how the vaccine could factor into the larger reopening, but said there will be a special meeting at 7:30 p.m. Thursday to discuss those plans and timelines.

Selectwoman Nancy Lefkowitz said having teachers and school staff next is good for the larger community.

“It’s going to be welcome news for teachers and for parents of students in town,” she said.

kkoerting@newstimes.com