NEW BRITAIN —With a new massive vaccination clinic in downtown New Britain set to open in the next few weeks, healthcare officials made it clear that they are committed to vaccinating everyone.

During a press conference Wednesday morning, Hartford HealthCare officials announced the opening of a mega vaccine clinic at The Hospital of Central Connecticut in downtown New Britain that they hope will ramp up vaccination distribution to city residents.

The announcement from HHC comes as the state opens vaccination appointments for people age 65-74. But healthcare workers are still trying to raise the number of people age 75 and older to get vaccinated.

Of New Britain’s roughly 4,935 residents age 75 and older, only 17.9 percent — or 882 people — have received their first vaccine dose, according to data released by the state on Feb. 3.

“No community left behind,” Jeff Flaks, president and CEO of Hartford HealthCare, said repeatedly during the press conference.

The mega clinic is on track to open sometime between Feb. 22 and March 1, according to officials.

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The announcement of the mass vaccination site comes as Gov. Ned Lamont delivered his state budget address on Wednesday, vowing to make defeating COVID-19 the top priority. “Because if we don’t, nothing else matters,” the governor said.

But Lamont has also noted in recent weeks that vaccination sites’ capacity to administer shots far exceeds the number of doses the state currently receives from the federal government. The administration has also expressed optimism that the supply of doses could increase as Pfizer and Moderna ramp up manufacturing, and if the Food and Drug Administration approves an emergency use authorization for the single-dose vaccine developed by Johnson and Johnson.

The company submitted an application for emergency approval of its vaccine to the FDA last week.


The new site also comes as Lamont announced earlier this week that people 65 and older will now be able to get the vaccine, lowering the age of eligibility down from 75. Most people will be able to register for an appointment beginning Thursday, but health care providers with extra appointments are allowed to begin filling them with people age 65 and up.

Flaks said HHC is working to open a network of mega center statewide to try to get vaccine dosages into residents.

HHC already operates massive clinics at the Torrington Armory and the Hartford Convention Center. Flaks said the health network secured rights to open additional clinics at the Xfinity Theatre in Hartford, Foxwoods Casino and the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford.

A clinic has been built at Central High School in Bridgeport and another in Norwich will be expanding, Flaks said.

Flaks added that a team is scanning major metropolitan areas and communities statewide, putting out inquiries for sites that meet a series of requirements needed for additional mega vaccine clinics.

Bridgeport Hospital and Yale New Haven Health is set to open a mass vaccination site at University of Bridgeport on Friday. The site can administer more than 1,700 vaccine doses per week and will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily while supplies are available. Appointments are required and can be scheduled at www.ynhhs.org/covidvaccine.

Currently, Flaks said HHC’s system is built to handle about 35,000 vaccines weekly, but they are prepared to ramp up distribution.

“We have a plan in place, we’re ready to pivot on a dime to move to do more than 75,000 vaccines a week,” Flaks said, adding that the mega clinics can help drastically with these numbers.

Mayor Erin Stewart praised the collaborative efforts that led up to this point, but stressed that the work isn’t over. She said getting vaccines to residents comes with concerns regarding transportation, technology and trust.

Stewart said the mega clinic being in downtown should help with some transportation concerns. She said volunteers and staff are working to help those having technology issues.

The trust barriers continue to be addressed as officials work to get the word out that the vaccine is safe and effective, Stewart said.

Doctors Henry Anyimadu and Sarah Banks, both COVID-19 front-line physicians and infectious disease specialists, urged community members to get vaccinated as they are eligible.

Anyimadu stressed how the virus has disproportionately impacted people of color, but that people of color were still hesitant to get the vaccine.

“It breaks my heart to think that those most impacted are the most reluctant to accept,” the vaccine,” Anyimadu said, adding that he hopes the mega center will be a step forward in getting more people of color vaccinated.

He reminded residents that any information saying the vaccines are unsafe, ineffective or were developed too quickly are simply “myths.” He urged anyone with concerns to reach out to the health care system to talk to a medical professional.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday said double masking— wearing a cloth mask over a medical procedure mask — can reduce the wearer’s risk of exposure to COVID-19. The announcement, part of two studies the federal agency conducted using dummies, also recommends knotting the ear loops of a mask and then folding and flattening the extra material close to the false to improve fit.

Staff Writer Peter Yankowski contributed reporting



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