By Tony Aiello

HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork) — Connecticut has a new vaccine eligibility schedule based on age.

Starting next Monday, people ages 55 to 64 can get vaccinated.

About three weeks later on March 22, that expands to include people ages 45 to 54.

As of April 12, it’s 35 to 44. And May 3, 16 to 34.

COVID VACCINE

Gov. Ned Lamont is defending his decision to rewrite the rules for getting vaccinated there. CBS2’s Tony Aiello spoke with Lamont Tuesday afternoon about his decision to make age the determining factor, not job status or underlying illness.

“If we prioritized by age and then had a separate track for the most underserved communities, we could get it done quickly, efficiently and with equity,” Lamont said.

Lamont is breaking from CDC guidance to simplify Connecticut’s vaccine rollout with eligibility based on age, rather than presence of an underlying condition or job status, with one exception. Educators join people 55+ to become eligible March 1.

It’s a disappointment for Francesca Laferty of Wilton, whose immune system is compromised. Her vaccine eligibility moves from March to May.

“I felt prioritized and today it was just completely stripped away,” Laferty said.

Lamont, who became eligible last week, points out 96% of COVID deaths in Connecticut are people 55 and older. The state was bombarded with calls from people to work the job status categories to qualify.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

“You were facing a situation where grocery workers become eligible, and someone was calling and saying, ‘Well, I don’t work in a grocery store, I work in a gas station, but I serve hot dogs and donuts.’ It got complicated?” Aiello asked.

“Pretty soon, if everybody’s a priority, nobody’s a priority. So we decided to keep it simple, focused on age and equity,” Lamont said.

The governor said a special focus will be made to boost vaccination supply and rates in minority communities.

“Allocate extra doses so as many folks in underserved populations are getting vaccinated as in the suburbs,” Lamont said.

He’s betting simplicity will speed up the process – understanding there will be a political price if it doesn’t.

Tony Aiello