Yale sees COVID vaccination rates down by nearly 50%; Can CT reach herd immunity?

Connecticut

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Older people couldn’t get their COVID vaccine doses fast enough, but for younger people in Connecticut that is not the case.

Leaders at Yale New Haven Health are seeing younger people not stepping up to protect themselves – and those around them.

Yale vaccinated 25,000 people around the state last week, a drop of almost half from the peak of nearly 50,000 vaccinations in one week.

Health experts said it’s no longer a matter of access, but of hesitancy.

Leaders want to continue to get the message out that the vaccine is safe, preventing people from getting COVID-19 in most circumstances. If a vaccinated individual gets the disease, the severity will be lower and they will experience a shortened hospital stay.

“We’ve hit a spot now for the first time in the country that everybody has access to a vaccine and we’ve gotten the first wave of shots. Now we have to get the second wave of people who may not be sure but getting them vaccinated will get us to that.”

“It’s up to all of us to encourage one another to get the vaccine if not for yourself then for the other people you will protect your elderly neighbors, your family, your loved ones, you will be protecting others as well,” says Dr. Thomas Balcezak, Chief Medical Officer at Yale New Haven Hospital.

A negative trend is being seen with the single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine: major hesitancy. The pause on the J&J vaccine could be a factor in the slow down towards herd immunity, also instilling fear into those who question getting vaccinated in the first place.

“When the CDC paused the J&J vaccine it wasn’t because it was particularly more harmful and it wasn’t paused because it caused an unexpected side effect,” Dr. Venkatesh added. “What they paused it to do was to spend time educating doctors like me on being conscious that the side effect exists.”

“We have about 960 appointments available down in Greenwich at Brunswick delivering J&J, and as of [Monday morning] at 8 o’clock, there were only 25 individuals scheduled,” says Dr. Balcezak.

In New Haven, leaders say only about 37% of the population has been vaccinated, and the ultimate goal would be at least 80% to reach herd immunity— at this rate, experts don’t see that happening any time soon.

“We have community immunity from many different infectious diseases. We’ve taken for granted now that measles isn’t running around our communities or polio has been eradicated and that took years to get to that level of vaccination,” said Dr. Arjun Venkatesh, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Yale.

And while COVID-19 hospitalizations are down by 50% from the levels two weeks ago – Yale’s facilities are near full capacity. Leaders say this is due to people putting off medical care throughout the pandemic. They are now appearing at hospitals sicker, requiring a longer hospital stay.

For now, Yale plans on keeping its many mass vaccination clinics around the state open but may reduce the number of vaccination dates at some point.

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