'It's just super disappointing': Not everyone approves of Lamont's new vaccine priorities

Photo of Mark Zaretsky

Kathy Flaherty tends to be a supporter of Gov. Ned Lamont but she “had a pretty visceral reaction” to his announcement Monday that the state was shifting gears and would set vaccination priorities by age, with an exception for teachers, at the expense of essential workers and people with preexisting conditions.

“I’m incredibly disappointed,” said Flaherty, executive director of the Connecticut Legal Rights Project, which fights for the rights of people with disabilities. “It’s been 11-plus months of people with disabilities being left behind in this pandemic.”

Flaherty said she has “several comorbidities” and is 53 — two years younger than the 55-64 age range that will be the next called to register for vaccinations beginning Monday under new priorities Lamont revealed Monday, so she’s one of the people seeing their own access to vaccinations pushed back.

But she’s fortunate in that she gets to work remotely from home, and said, “I’m a lot more upset about people with far more serious conditions than I. ... My position is really on behalf of our entire community, because I just think it’s wrong,” Flaherty said.

“This whole pandemic has been a kind of never-ending reminder ... of the lack of care that a lot of people have exhibited towards us,” said Flaherty, who lives in Newington but works statewide.

“When we talk about underlying medical conditions or preexisting conditions — those are my friends with disabilities,” she said. “I’m disappointed and it just really hurts. ... This is really a time for compassion ... and it really seems like they just said, ‘No, it’s too hard.’”

Flaherty said she is far from alone in her feelings.

“There are a lot of people who are profoundly disappointed with the government” and its response, she said. “It’s just super disappointing. The whole thing’s a mess.”

Even outside of her work with the project, Flaherty knows a thing or two about preexisting conditions.

Since last March 12, when she first got sick, she’s been someone living with what’s now known as “Long COVID” — in which patients have medical problems that continue long after the coronavirus has left their system.

She couldn’t get a COVID-19 test at first — and tested negative when she finally was able to get one weeks later — but is now being treated at the Winchester Chest Clinic’s Post-COVID-19 Recovery Program, aka the “Long COVID Clinic,” at Yale.

“What was really depressing about yesterday was, yesterday was the day that we thought (Lamont) was going to be announcing” that people whose preexisting conditions make them more susceptible to serious health effects from COVID-19 would get help.

“Everybody between the ages of 16 and 64 who suffers from a preexisting condition thought that yesterday was the day that governor was going to announce” that they could finally get vaccinated, she said. “It’s really frustrating.”

mark.zaretsky@hearstmediact.com