After months of playing defense, Connecticut is going on offense in the fight against COVID. On Monday, state officials gathered on the runway of a historic airfield in East Hartford which has now transformed into a mass vaccination center.
1,600 people got their shot on the old Pratt & Whitney airfield as Connecticut, already top five in the country, kicked it’s vaccination efforts into high gear. “Look at these lines of hope right here. This is what this means. People know what a difference this is going to make for our state and for our country,” explained Gov. Ned Lamont.
The history making effort was made possible through public / private partnerships. Mark Masselli, the founder of Community Health Center Inc. said, “On January 11th for the first time we came out to a very long runway with no power of electricity and one week later we were able to vaccinate our first CT resident.” Lyman Orchards even donated some wheels. “They heard we were on this long runway. They gave us 10 golf carts,” he said.
FOX61 talked to people waiting to get their shot. Joe Picone of Marlborough said, “I was in the military. I took every vaccine they gave me so.” Andrea Dixon of Hartford said, “I’ve been a little apprehensive about it but I think it’s a good thing. At least there’s something we have to control this.”
When you call the state hotline, right now Rentschler Field is the only place you’ll be able to book an appointment, but that’s about to change. “We’re adding new providers. We should have 3 additional coming on in the next couple of days,” said Deirdre Gifford, the interim commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Public Health.
Dr. Gifford says they’ve also doubled the number of people answering the lines of their call center. “We understand that there have been some challenges in the appointment making. We hear it and we want everyone to know that our team is on it. We’ve been on it 24/7.”
Governor Lamont swung back at the town of Vernon who, on Friday, criticized the state for the execution of their Phase 1B rollout. “If you want to solve a problem give me a call, if you want to score political points just have another press conference,” remarked Lamont.
Right now, Connecticut is getting 46,000 doses of the COVID vaccine each week, with manufacturers under pressure to ramp it up. “Pfizer told me they could have the capacity to double what they are producing over the next 30 to 45 days,” said Gov. Lamont.
Connecticut is in the top five for both the percentage of the population vaccinated and the percentage of vaccines not sitting on the shelves. “Connecticut is in the mid 70 percent in terms of using the available supply. That’s a tremendous accomplishment,” remarked Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
Sen. Blumenthal went from the East Hartford news conference straight back to D.C. to push for another $20 billion in pandemic relief, some of which will go toward funding for vaccines. He says he will be encouraging President Biden to utilize the defense production act to increase the vaccine supply — like what President Trump did with ventilators.