The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “social vulnerability index” has formed the basis for the state’s prioritization system and has been a reliable indicator of low vaccine uptake. Generally speaking, the higher a community’s SVI score, the lower its vaccination rate, a CT Mirror analysis found.
An estimated 32% of the state’s eligible population lives in the state’s priority ZIP codes, and the state aims to administer the same percentage of vaccines within those communities. While the state inches closer to that goal each week, the statewide slowdown in the number of shots administered means that it has a lot of ground to make up. Of all the vaccines administered so far, just 25% of all vaccines distributed as of last week have gone to residents of those ZIP codes.
“Progress is slower now,” said Josh Geballe, the state’s chief operating officer, at a recent press conference.
Connecticut’s neighbors have also prioritized age in their rollouts after prioritizing health care workers and nursing homes, though they have also made teachers, essential workers and people with underlying conditions eligible in tandem at different points in the pandemic. New York announced that teachers and some essential workers were eligible in January along with individuals 75+; Massachusetts included people with co-morbidities in its 65+ rollout in late February. Rhode Island deviated from an age-based strategy around mid-March when it opened up eligibility to teachers, and later to individuals with co-morbidities.
But the state has its terms for success defined backward, said Saad Omer, Yale School of Public Health epidemiologist and the director of the Yale Institute for Global Health. “That’s a process metric,” he said. “It’s not an outcome metric.”
How important is speed in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout? To Connecticut, it’s an important enough consideration to partially justify bucking CDC guidance on prioritizing people with co-morbidities, though experts suggest that it is the best way to prevent deaths in younger populations.
But by rolling out vaccine through an age-based process, the state will effectively de-prioritize younger adults with co-morbidities that put them at higher risk of dying from COVID-19, Omer said, because in those younger age groups, those with existing health issues will be part of a much larger crowd of eligible residents.