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Vaccine Arrives in Hartford and Inoculations Begin, Providing Hope Against COVID-19

December 14, 2020

By Shawn Mawhiney and Steve Coates

Nine months after the first COVID-19 patients emerged at Hartford HealthCare (HHC) hospitals, a vaccine arrived that is expected to change the course of the worldwide pandemic.

Nearly 2000 doses of coronavirus vaccine arrived at Hartford Hospital at 6:43 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 14, a date some are comparing to when America landed a man on the moon.

With Gov. Ned Lamont and a large contingent of media on hand at Hartford Hospital, the first inoculation in Connecticut began immediately with staff from across HHC. Lamont and HHC President and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey A. Flaks both referred to the vaccine arrival as historic and praised healthcare workers for their courage during a pandemic that has now killed more than 300,000 people across the United States.

Packed in dry ice, the vaccine shipment was received at Hartford Hospital and moved to the hospital’s ultra-cold freezer — purchased specifically to accommodate the vaccine — for storage at minus-100 degrees. Doses were defrosted and shipped to clinic sites at other Hartford HealthCare hospitals, including Backus Hospital, Charlotte Hungerford Hospital, The Hospital of Central Connecticut, MidState Medical Center, St. Vincent’s Medical Center and Windham Hospital, where clinics will be held for frontline staff.

“I could not be more proud of all you have done and how far we have come,” Flaks said. “The talent and expertise of our entire team, in every area of Hartford HealthCare, made sure we were ready for this crucial moment. Today, you are part of history.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, frontline healthcare workers and those living in skilled nursing facilities are eligible to receive the vaccine first. The vaccine, while not mandatory, is recommended for all healthcare workers.

At Hartford HealthCare, distribution will be prioritized for those staff (both clinical and clinical support) who work directly in areas that care for COVID-19 patients.

In the coming weeks, HHC expects to receive enough vaccines for all staff.

“I want to recognize their courage,” said Flaks, referring to staff members who have been caring for COVID-19 patients for the past nine months. “These are people who protect us when we are most vulnerable. . . . I have enormous gratitude, incredible appreciation and respect, beyond what I can put into words, for what I see from our team, our front-line healthcare workers, every day.”

Lamont called the arrival of the vaccine “the arrival of a new day,” but cautioned people to continue to wear masks and practice social distancing until enough people receive the vaccine — a process that is expected to take several months.

Hartford HealthCare Senior Director of Infectious Disease Keith Grant, the first front-line worker to get vaccinated on Monday (see photo above), added that the vaccine is 95 percent effective, compared to flu shots which are generally below 60 percent. Still, because of the time it takes for enough people to get the required two doses — 28 days between injections — people should not let their guard down. He said especially during the holiday season, people should avoid gathering with anyone outside of their household.

Despite the need to remain cautious, the vaccine offers renewed hope against the coronavirus.

“This is a tremendous moment for our state, for our region, and for our country,” Flaks said.

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine, click here.