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Sen. Murphy: COVID vaccine this year 'wildly optimistic'

Wallingford -- It's unclear when the first COVID-19 vaccine could be approved for use, but political and municipal leaders around the state already are laying the groundwork on how it would be distributed and who would get it first.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-3rd, met with Wallingford officials Friday to update them on progress being made in developing a vaccine, as well as to to listen to their concerns.

The pair met with Mayor William Dickinson Jr., Superintendent of Schools Salvatore Menzo and three of the state representatives who are part of the town's legislative delegation in Hartford.

"I think it's wildly optimistic to think that we will have vaccine this year," Murphy said. "However, human testing is going well enough that we could have something within six to 12 months."

DeLauro said nine potential vaccines for the virus are in Phase III testing, the final step in the drug development process before the federal Food and Drug Administration considers approving a treatment. Another 14 drug candidates are in Phase II testing and 25 more are in Phase 1, she said.

But DeLauro said the public needs to be clear on one thing: Even after a COVID-19 vaccine is approved, it will take time before it is widely available.

"It's not going to be everybody all at once," she said. "In the beginning, it's going to be given to first responders and those at risk."

Town Health Director Stephen Civitelli said initial projections are that the town would get at least 50 doses of the vaccine per week to administer in the first phase of distribution. Because indications are that whatever vaccine is approved would require two doses administered several weeks apart to be effective, Civitelli said it could take eight to 12 weeks before those who qualify to get the drug are fully vaccinated.

"We are planning for a drive-through clinic (to distribute the vaccine)," he said.

As a test of how feasible a drive-through distribution method would be be, the Health Department will be administering flu shots to the public on Oct. 17, with additional dates to be added if necessary, Civitelli said.

The town is not alone in considering a drive-through distribution method for a COVID-19 vaccine, said Civitelli, who is current president of the Connecticut Association of Directors of Health.

State Rep. Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire, said money needs to be allocated now to begin an education campaign to encourage "those who are vaccine hesitant" to get the shots when they become available.

Dickinson said he's concerned people will be reluctant to get vaccinated because of how quickly the COVID-19 shots are being developed.

And that distrust is particularly acute in the Black community, according to state Rep. Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford, because of the circumstances surrounding a health care study done at the Tuskegee Institute Alabama in the early 1930s. A total of 600 Black men from Macon County, Ala., were sought to take part in a scientific study on syphilis.

The goal of the infamous "Tuskegee Study" was to observe untreated syphilis. Those who participated in the study were unaware of its real purpose and some never received any treatment.

Murphy said officials of companies developing the vaccine already have said publicly that "they are not going to allow a product to be pushed out that is not safe."

DeLauro said the federal government already has approved $30 billion toward development of a drug to fight COVID-19. Another $3.5 billion in funding is part of the Hero's Act, which the U.S. House Representatives approved in May, but has become bogged down in the Senate, she said.




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