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December 8, 2020

YNHH leaders: vaccinations to commence shortly

Dr. Thomas Balcezak of Yale New Haven Health speaks during a virtual press conference on Dec. 7.

Yale New Haven Health system officials said Monday they anticipate getting the first doses of vaccines to combat the coronavirus later this week.

The news comes as the number of patients hospitalized with the virus across the health system continues to rise.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to consider granting emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate on Thursday, and for Moderna’s version on Dec. 17.

CEO Marna P. Borgstrom said she hopes the system can  begin administering an approved vaccine in about a week.

Dr. Thomas Balcezak, executive vice president and chief clinical officer, said the health system is preparing for the mass vaccination of system staff first, which will happen over the next month.

“It is a big undertaking,” Balcezak said. “We will be scheduling appointments, because we don’t want people waiting in lines.”

While the health system does not plan to mandate that all employees get vaccinated, Dr. Richard Martinello, medical director, infection prevention, said he anticipates high staff participation.

The elderly and those in nursing homes and assisted living facilities will also be among the first to get access to vaccine doses

Once higher risk populations are done, then others, such as children, teens and adults under 65, can get vaccinated.

When asked if he anticipates that the public may be hesitant or fearful about getting vaccinated, Balcezak said, “I am hopeful there will be increased acceptance” after people start getting the vaccine.

“This is the only way to get out of this trouble we are in,” he added.

CEO Marna P. Borgstrom reported 457 in-patients across the health system with COVID-19 on Monday, up from 416 just before Thanksgiving. 

Of this total, 239 were at Yale New Haven Hospital, 132 at Bridgeport Hospital, 32 at Lawrence + Memorial in New London, 41 at Greenwich Hospital and 13 at Westerly Hospital in Rhode Island.

“We are officially in the next wave of this pandemic,” Borgstrom said.

In late October, the health system’s total COVID-19 in-patient population was at 90.

According to Borgstrom, the health system’s campuses all continue to have the capacity to treat more patients. While the health system suspended some elective procedures in the spring, it does not plan to do so now.

“We didn’t want, this time around, for people to delay care,” Borgstrom said, noting that doing so can be detrimental to patients’ health. “It had also hurt us financially, when the revenue from the general patient population wasn’t coming in.” 

Martinello said the staff better understands how to care for COVID patients now than it did in the spring. The hospitals are using more oxygen supplementation for patients and using ventilators less.

Health system officials all urged people to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

“People are craving spending time with family, but you don’t know who is infected and what the risk is,” Borgstrom said. “We hope that six months from now, it’ll be very different.”

On Monday afternoon, Gov. Ned Lamont reported that there are 1,183 patients currently hospitalized statewide with the virus. The state has had 5,224 fatalities.

Contact Michelle Tuccitto Sullo at

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