(TNS) - Connecticut’s first batch of the recently authorized coronavirus vaccine arrived at Hartford Hospital Monday morning, and Hartford HealthCare administered the first doses to front line workers less than two hours later.
“This is a big deal,” said Gov. Ned Lamont at a Monday press event. “We are going on all cylinders right now.”
Hartford HealthCare’s allocation of 1,950 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived around 9 a.m. The hospital system has so far administered the first doses to 13 physicians, respiratory therapists, nurses and environmental service workers. The system plans to vaccinate two more workers at about noon.
“It’s the dawn of a new day. To me this gives us hope,’' said Jeffrey Flaks, CEO of Hartford Healthcare, before the vaccinations began. “We cannot wait to start the process.”
After vaccinating the first workers in a ceremonial press event, the hospital system will administer the remainder of its first doses over the coming days.
Dr. Ajay Kumar, Hartford HealthCare’s chief clinical officer, was the first in the state to receive the vaccine, just before 11 a.m. Monday.
“This is a momentous time for all of us. We’ve been working very hard to contain and manage the pandemic so far, and this is one more huge and significant step forward,” Kumar said.
Another physician to receive the vaccine Monday morning, Hartford Hospital pulmonologist Dr. Patrick Troy, said the vaccine’s arrival is the equivalent of putting a man on the moon.
“I’ll be honest, I didn’t sleep a wink last night,” Troy said Monday morning. “I”m just incredibly excited and enthusiastic to roll up my sleeve and get this vaccine in me.”
Lamont said last week that the state expects to receive a total of 31,200 vaccine doses this week.
This week, the first shipment of doses will be administered only to health care workers. Hospitals across the state said they plan to first vaccinate the workers who care for COVID-19 patients and are otherwise directly exposed to COVID-19. Beginning next week, the state plans to also begin vaccinating nursing home residents.
“This is a significant moment for our state and our country,” Lamont said in a statement released by his office. “Here in Connecticut, we are incredibly proud to be able to say that the Pfizer team in Groton helped to develop this first vaccine to fight the coronavirus, which we know will help to get our communities back to normal.”
Lamont added at Monday’s press event that the return to normalcy will take a significant amount of time. State officials have said that Connecticut hopes to vaccinate everyone who wishes to be vaccinated by early fall 2021. Until a large majority of residents have been successfully vaccinated, medical experts have said that masking, social distancing and hand washing will remain crucial.
“We’ve got a lot more being careful to do,” Lamont said Monday.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday evening issued an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine, after an FDA advisory committee recommended the vaccine was ready for public use.
The same night, a subgroup of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention followed up the authorization with guidance that the vaccine should be first administered to health care workers and nursing home residents. That guidance was the final administrative barrier to vaccine distribution.
On Saturday, the science subcommittee of Connecticut’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group echoed the FDA authorization, as expected.
Subcommittee co-chairs Jason L Schwartz — assistant professor of public health at Yale University — and Dr. David Banach — an epidemiologist at UConn Health — wrote to the governor that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine should begin being administered “at the earliest opportunity.”
“We found that the process of developing, reviewing and authorizing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was rigorous, transparent and scientifically sound,” said Banach and Schwartz. “The subcommittee has full confidence in the integrity of the FDA review and authorization process for this vaccine and the quality of the work performed by FDA scientists, reviewers and advisory committee members,.”
Although Monday marked the arrival of the first shipment of the vaccine, the state of Connecticut expects to receive more doses each week. And beginning next week, the doses of the Pfizer vaccine could be supplemented with doses of a second vaccine.
The Moderna coronavirus vaccine is scheduled to go before the FDA advisory committee on Thursday, exactly one week behind the Pfizer vaccine. If the Moderna vaccine is authorized and distributed at the same speed as the Pfizer vaccine, then states across the country could begin receiving doses next Monday.
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