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Lamont announces membership of COVID-19 vaccine advisory group

Gov. Ned Lamont on Friday announced the members of a new advisory group tasked with deciding who in the state will be first to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, if and when one is approved by the federal government.

The dozens of individuals on the new panel represent a broad range of interests. They include members of the General Assembly, epidemiologists, academics, church leaders, labor leaders, doctors and health care providers, representatives of labor and business — including the health insurance industry and the state’s long-term care facilities — and even a college student.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group is co-chaired by Deidre Gifford, acting commissioner of the Connecticut departments of Public Health and Social Services; and Reginald Eadie, CEO of Trinity Health. According to the announcement released by the governor, there will be 21 members of a main advisory board. Some of these members — and others — will serve on three subcommittees. 

One will focus on the safety of the federal approval process and science behind the vaccine, while another will advise the governor on how to distribute and allocate the vaccine. The third panel will focus on marketing and advertising to get information about the vaccine to the public.

A COVID-19 vaccine has not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and Drug Administration, although four pharmaceutical companies — Pfizer, Astra-Zeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — are in the final stages of their clinical trials and one or more vaccines could be approved for use by the end of the year. 

The Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” plan aims to rush any vaccine that is deemed safe and effective to the states as soon as possible, perhaps with the help of the military. The standard for effectiveness is one that prevents a COVID-19 infection at least 50% of the time.

The administration has pressed the states for their distribution plans and provided about $200 million in grants for this purpose. Connecticut received a $2.4 million grant, money that will be used to pay All Clear, a consulting group that will help the state decide which pharmacies, hospitals, health centers and other sites will receive the vaccine.

States have been given an Oct. 16 deadline to submit this distribution plan to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The governor’s new panel, however, is unlikely to be involved in this phase of vaccine distribution planning. His announcement said a schedule of meetings for the advisory panel “has not yet been finalized” but that the group hopes to hold its first meeting “in mid-October.”

Before the vaccine can be distributed, states must decide who will be first in line to be inoculated. Initial supplies of the vaccine will be scarce, distributed to states based on population and a few other factors. The new panel will advise the governor on that aspect of vaccine distribution.

Eadie recently told the Connecticut Mirror that the advisory group will follow the guidelines set by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices but may have to modify those recommendations.

He said the panel is likely to prioritize “based on risks ... first responders, the elderly, the vulnerable communities or populations.”

In a separate interview, Gifford told the Mirror “one of the reasons why the governor wanted to have this advisory group is that we anticipate that even within those broad categories (established by the federal government) we’ll have to make some local decisions.”

No special favors

“If it turns out, as it probably will, that there are not going to be enough vaccines for everybody on day one, we’re going to have to have some strategy for distribution and administration of the vaccine. And we don’t want people to suspect that somebody got a special favor in that process,” Gifford said.

Meanwhile, the CDC has reached out to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the National Academy of Medicine for help in determining who should be first in line for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Last month, those organizations released a draft proposal that recommended the vaccine be distributed in four phases, with health care workers and vulnerable Americans, including the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, going to the front of the line. Those in the first phase of the distribution plan would account for about 15% of the population, the draft report said.

Phase 2 would include essential workers, teachers, residents of homeless shelters, and those living in prisons, jails and detention centers. All older adults not included in phase one would be vaccinated in phase two.

Phase 3 would include young adults, children and workers in industries “essential to the functioning of society” and who are at risk of exposure to the virus. About 85% to 95% of the country would be vaccinated by the end of phase three, the report said. Phase 4 would include everyone not covered in the previous phases.

The members of the Governor’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group include:

Main advisory group

Co-Chair: Dr. Deidre Gifford, acting commissioner of the state Department of Public Health

Co-Chair: Dr. Reginald J. Eadie, president and CEO of Trinity Health of New England

  • Mary Daugherty Abrams, state senator (D-Meriden, Middlefield, Rockfall, Middletown, Cheshire)
  • Jessica Abrantes-Figueiredo, chief of infectious diseases for Saint Francis Hospital
  • Stephen Civitelli, director of health for the Wallingford Health Department
  • Chris DiPentima, president and CEO of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association
  • Josh Elliott, state representative (D-Hamden)
  • Tekisha Dwan Everette, executive director of Health Equity Connecticut
  • Keith Grant, senior system director for infection prevention for Hartford HealthCare
  • Eileen Healy, executive director of Independence Northwest for the Connecticut Cross-Disability Lifespan Alliance and Chair of the Connecticut Association of Centers for Independent Living
  • Derrick Holloway, pastor of First Calvary Baptist Church
  • Sal Luciano, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO
  • Richard Martinello, medical director of infection prevention for Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale New Haven Health
  • Mag Morelli, president of LeadingAge Connecticut
  • Nichelle Mullins, president and CEO of Charter Oak Health Center
  • William Petit, state representative (R-New Britain, Plainville)
  • Jason Schwartz, assistant professor at the Yale School of Public Health
  • Milagrosa Seguinot, president of the Connecticut Community Health Workers Association
  • Michelle Seagull, commissioner of the state Department of Consumer Protection
  • Heather Somers, state senator (R-Griswold, Groton, North Stonington, Plainfield, Preston, Sterling, Stonington, Voluntown)

Allocation subgroup

  • Michael Carius, American College of Emergency Physicians
  • Stephen Civitelli, director of health for the Wallingford Health Department
  • Kerry Clark, UConn Health
  • Tekisha Dwan Everette, executive director of Health Equity Connecticut
  • Lori Fedewa, Director of the Connecticut State Office of Rural Health
  • Khuram Ghumman, president of the Hartford County Medical Association
  • Tim Klufas, college student
  • Suzanne Lagarde, CEO of Fair Haven Community Health Center
  • Zita Lazzarini, UConn Health
  • Andrew Mais, commissioner of the Connecticut Insurance Department
  • Sara Parker McKernan, New Haven Legal Assistance
  • Leslie Miller, president of the Fairfield County Medical Association
  • Nichelle Mullins, president and CEO of Charter Oak Health Center
  • Neil O’Leary, mayor of the city of Waterbury
  • Regina Rush-Kittle, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection
  • Marlene Schwartz, president of the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity
  • Michelle Seagull, commissioner of the state Department of Consumer Protection
  • Raymond Sullivan, director of health for the Brookfield Health Department

Communications subgroup

  • Mary Daugherty Abrams, state senator (D-Meriden, Middlefield, Rockfall, Middletown, Cheshire)
  • Robyn Anderson, pastor
  • Matt Barrett, president and CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities
  • John Brady, American Federation of Teachers
  • Hector Caraballo, pastor of Casa de Oracion y Adoracion
  • Angel Castellano, pastor of Smirna Misionera Church
  • Yolanda Castillo, Secretary of the Town of Manchester Board of Directors
  • Lindsay E. Curtis, pastor of Grace Baptist Church
  • Chris DiPentima, president and CEO of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association
  • Tiffany Donelson, president and CEO of Connecticut Health Foundation
  • Brad Drazen, vice president of Communications and Marketing for the Hartford Foundation
  • Taylor Edelman, equipty and community engagement coordinator for Apex Community Care
  • Josh Elliott, state representative (D-Hamden)
  • Michael Freda, first selectman of North Haven and President of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities
  • Judy Goldberg, vice president of Government Relations for the Connecticut PTA
  • Susan Halpin, Connecticut Association of Health Plans
  • Angela Harris, Phillips Health Ministry and Phillips CME Church
  • Eileen Healy, executive director of Independence Northwest for the Connecticut Cross-Disability Lifespan Alliance and chair of the Connecticut Association of Centers for Independent Living
  • Derrick Holloway, pastor of First Calvary Baptist Church
  • Erin Jones, counsel for the March of Dimes
  • Greg Jones, Legacy Foundation
  • Nihal Khan, director of religious affairs for the Islamic Center of Connecticut
  • Sal Luciano, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO
  • Mag Morelli, president of LeadingAge Connecticut
  • Diane Morgenthaler, director of health and wellness for Southern Connecticut State University
  • Maurice Porter, pastor of Impact Church
  • Joseph Quaranta, president of the Community Medical Group and co-chair of the Connecticut Health Information Technology Advisory Council
  • Jordan Scheff, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Developmental Services
  • Milagrosa Seguinot, president of Connecticut Community Health Workers Association
  • Heather Somers, state senator (R-Griswold, Groton, North Stonington, Plainfield, Preston, Sterling, Stonington, Voluntown)
  • Vicki Veltri, executive director of the Connecticut Office of Health Strategy

Scientific subgroup

  • Jessica Abrantes-Figueiredo, chief of infectious diseases for Saint Francis Hospital
  • David Banach, head of infection prevention and hospital epidemiologist at UConn Health
  • Keith Grant, senior system director for infection prevention for Hartford HealthCare
  • Jim Hadler, clinical professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Medicine
  • Danyal Ibrahim, Trinity Health of New England
  • Albert Ko, professor of epidemiology and medicine and department chair at the Yale School of Public Health
  • Roxy Kozyckyj, director of state government affairs for the Healthcare Distribution Alliance
  • Richard Martinello, medical director of infection prevention for Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale New Haven Health
  • William Petit, state representative (R-New Britain, Plainville)
  • Jack Ross, president of the Connecticut Infectious Diseases Society
  • Jason Schwartz, assistant professor at the Yale School of Public Health
  • Jody Terranova, assistant professor of pediatrics for the American Academy of Pediatrics

Ana Radelat is a reporter for The Connecticut Mirror (www.ctmirror.org). Copyright 2020 © The Connecticut Mirror.

aradelat@ctmirror.org

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