Gov. Ned Lamont (Christine Stuart / CTNewsJunkie)

With some newly-eligible residents receiving vaccination appointments stretching into April, Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday he was confident that most people over 55 years old who wanted a shot would get one in the next three weeks. 

The state lowered its age threshold for COVID vaccine eligibility to 55 Monday, giving around 500,000 people their first opportunity to book an appointment for a shot. Several health care system websites crashed under the strain. Many found no available appointments and some of those who were able to make appointments reported dates stretching past mid-April. Despite those reports, the governor said when the rush settles, most would be vaccinated in the next three weeks.

“It’s going to take a week, 10 days before you can get everything settled out and everybody gets there but I think everybody that wants one will probably be able to get their vaccine — their first shot — over the course of the next three weeks,” he said.

Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer, said that more vaccination slots will become available as time goes on. Many providers did not have a full picture Monday of what doses they would have available in the coming weeks. Pharmacy providers CVS and Walgreens were scheduling appointments about a week in advance. Meanwhile, the state announced that it expects to receive more than 39,000 doses of the newly-approved Johnson & Johnson this week. 

“If someone has an appointment booked up in, say, April — if you like that appointment and you want to keep it, great. I think the message is, there’s going to be a lot more appointments coming online in the next several days and weeks between now and March 22. So there will probably be opportunities to improve your slot if you want to,” he said. Geballe asked that any resident who managed to find a preferable vaccination appointment cancel their original appointment to free up space for others. 

The state also began making appointments at dedicated clinics for educators and child care workers Monday, which adds another 160,000 eligible residents to the new phase of the rollout. 

During the press conference, Lamont said Monday’s rush for appointments would have been more severe had he not chosen to ignore Centers for Disease Control guidelines calling for the phase to include people with comorbidities and other essential workers.

“You’ve got about 500,000 people that want to get vaccinated and I know a number of them were waiting around at 12:01 this morning to try and do it online. And that’s why we wanted to narrow the cohort compared to what could have been a much bigger group of people,” he said. 

As of Monday, more than 627,000 residents had received at least their first shot. Another 336,155 had gotten both. With 19% of the state’s population getting at least their first injection, Lamont said Connecticut was outpacing the national average by about 4%. 

“That saves lives. That keeps people out of the hospital. That stops the spread — as you know we continue to look at those variants, but stops the spread, gives us a better chance to keep our schools open — our schools are more likely to be open than anybody in the region,” he said. 

The governor said he would be making announcements Thursday about easing COVID restrictions on restaurants, retailers and personal services.