BRISTOL – State officials Thursday addressed covid variants, the importance of vaccination and vaccination incentives during a press conference at Bristol Hospital.
Gov. Ned Lamont and Acting state Commissioner of Connecticut Department of Public Health Dr. Deidre Gifford joined Bristol Health President and CEO Kurt Barwis.
“Along with hospitals across the state, we have worked tirelessly to protect our residents, patients and staff,” said Barwis. “From being one of the first hospitals in the state to set up covid-19 testing station to now vaccinating as many people in our community as possible. Today we’ve administered [a total of] more than 25,000 vaccines. Folks, we have a lot more to go.”
Barwis noted that infection rates had gone down and that was evidence the vaccines worked. He thanked community partners and the city for their help in the spread of vaccination awareness and distribution.
“In terms of us and all the support we’ve got, I’m here to say these vaccines are safe and effective and have truly been a lifesaving turning point in our fight against this pandemic,” said Barwis.
Gifford stated that 79.6% of all adults in Connecticut have received the initial dose of the vaccination.
She also noted that one of the most common questions she and the governor received was when would Connecticut reach what has been called “herd immunity.” The commissioner said there was no “magic number” but generally 80% of individuals is the sought target number.
“When it comes to our adult population, it comes very close in Connecticut,” said Gifford who then thanked community partnerships for their support.
The commissioner said that Connecticut was one of the states with the highest vaccination rates in the country. However, there are still pockets of areas with lower vaccination rates, many in eastern Connecticut. According to a presentation slide shown at the event, New Britain has a vaccination rate of 47%, Bridgeport 48% and Hartford 44%.
“Those are in some ways also younger cities, so you have to keep that in mind there are more children in some of these larger cities who are not yet eligible for vaccination, said Gifford. “So that’s part of the explanation for why they have lower rates. But also we’re hearing and continue to hear there is some hesitancy and that’s one of the things I want to address today.”
“I think you saw from [Commissioner] Deidre [Gifford] that we’ve got communities in our state that have less than half the people vaccinated…We’re the United States of America,” said Lamont. “We’re more likely to be vaccinated than just about any country in the world and yet we have about a third of our states where infection are picking up and picking up quite a bit.”
Lamont named Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi and Florida as some of those places.
“It’s just a reminder again that we have not gotten rid of this pandemic until everybody is safe and that what happens in New Britain or happens in Arkansas can come back and this Delta variant is really, really infectious,” the governor said.
Gifford said the importance of vaccinating areas where individuals may not have received the injection yet was important to eliminating the possibility for variants such as the Delta variant from getting a foothold in Connecticut communities. She said around the world and the U.S. the variant seemed to be heading towards becoming the dominant variant in areas not seeing high vaccination rates.
“We know it’s more transmissible and probably causes more severe disease,” said Gifford. “We want to make sure that we don’t have any areas that are vulnerable to a return of covid in the fall. July, August, September is really our opportunity to get to these last pockets and make sure people have all their questions answered. They know the facts. They know the truth. We can bust some of those myths and people know where they can get vaccinated.”
As of June 28, 73% of first-dose vaccinations have been administered at pharmacies, 12% at hospitals and 12% at federally qualified health centers said displayed information at the meeting. In March, 37% were done by hospitals, 14% by federally qualified health centers, 24% at health departments at 23% at pharmacies.
“I want to speak directly to people who are still on the fence about getting their vaccination and maybe address some of the things that we’re hearing are causes for concern,” said Gifford.
Gifford said that the vaccines had been brought to market more quickly than others because of an emergency use authorization. She noted there were no shortcuts done in the science of their development and that “many” individuals had been tested before the vaccine was put into mass production.
She said there were minor side effects such as a sore arm or fatigue. She also said there were small risks of more serious side effects such a “rare blood clots, allergic reactions and short term heart side effects.”
“But we also know, and this has been stated by the FDA and by the CDC, that the risk of getting covid is much greater than the risks of some of these even more serious side effects,” she continued. She also noted that the majority of individuals being hospitalized for covid in Connecticut had not received a vaccine.
Gifford also said there was no proof that getting a covid vaccine would cause problems with reproductive health or infertility. She encouraged individuals considering having children to get the vaccines.