Vaccine effort continues to focus on elderly, underserved

Targeted populations expected to be completed by month's end
March 11, 2021

The state is vaccinating more people per day than ever, has more vaccines stockpiled and continues to receive supply, but is still projecting it will take three more weeks to vaccinate educators and senior citizens who have been waiting to get their shots.

Only then will vaccines be offered to the rest of the population.

Equity is a big concern as state officials focus on vaccinating underserved communities.

“We could be doing high-throughput pods, but we wouldn't be reaching people in their communities,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, Division of Public Health director, during the weekly press conference March 9.

State officials also want to make sure senior citizens get their vaccines before opening up vaccinations for other Delawareans.

“We've really focused on the 65 and plus population, because that's the population that’s most likely to have consequences – hospitalizations and death,” Rattay said.

Missed appointments, however, have become a problem, and Rattay reminded people to make sure they keep appointments or cancel them so someone else can take the spot.

“For those who make appointments at vaccine events – we've seen more people not showing up lately, and we just want to remind you that when you don't show up for a vaccination event, maybe you've been vaccinated elsewhere, but please keep in mind that you are taking a spot away from somebody else,” she said. “Please do your best to fulfill your vaccine appointments when you get them, or cancel them so someone else can take that spot.”

State continues to follow CDC reopening guidelines

It's been months since state officials have mentioned fully reopening the economy – a process once referred to as Phase 3, which was last mentioned in summer 2020. The state has been in Phase 2 reopening, with business capacities held to 50 percent since the beginning of February. Businesses were limited to 30 percent over the normally busy winter holidays.

In a March 9 release, the Delaware Restaurant Association said that revenues continue to lag, and many businesses have reported staffing cuts.

“Most restaurant operators do not expect a return to normal business conditions any time soon,” the release states. “Sixty-one percent of operators think it will be more than seven months before business conditions return to normal for their restaurant.”

On March 9, Maryland announced it was lifting capacity restrictions on restaurants, retail, gyms and religious centers while keeping mask and social distancing requirements, and allowing only seated customers at bars and restaurants. Texas and other southern states have done away with restrictions completely.

Gov. John Carney was not ready to discuss when Delaware will reopen more when asked during his March 9 press conference.

He said the state will continue to follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines, even though other states have been loosening up on restrictions.

Carney also could not say why neighboring states seem to be vaccinating greater numbers of their population than Delaware.

“My own view is that they're being a little loose with it and crossing over more, which we think will create more confusion,” he said.

On March 10, Alaska became the first state to drop eligibility requirements for COVID-19 vaccines, allowing anyone 16 or older to receive a shot.

Rattay said she has elderly relatives in other states who have not been able to get a vaccine, and who do not know when they will be able to get one because vaccinations are offered to more people.

“So, for us, we really want to make sure that our seniors have an opportunity for vaccination as much as possible before we move on. We don't want them to have to be fighting with a younger, more technologically savvy population to be able to get in line and get their vaccine,” Rattay said.

Carney estimated that 750,000 people over the age of 16 out of Delaware's nearly 1 million population are or will be eligible for vaccination. He said 170,000 have received at least one dose and 104,000 have been fully vaccinated. A total of 106,000 senior citizens have had at least one dose, he said.

Based on those statistics, nearly 40 percent of the population eligible for the vaccine has received at least one shot. Rattay said the virus mutates by spread, so the more people are vaccinated, the more it will prevent the spread of the virus.

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