CHESHIRE — Last week, the state Department of Health released its COVID-19 vaccination rates per town and, according to the data, Cheshire is near the top of the rankings.
The ratings system tracks how many members of the general population have received shots along with those 75 years of age or older.
According to the data, of those individuals eligible for the vaccination under the state’s Phase 1A plan, which includes all hospital staff and health care personnel, Cheshire has attained a 12% vaccination rate, and 40% of all individuals who are 75 and over and live in Cheshire. The only other Connecticut towns that have higher such rates than Cheshire’s are Farmington, Essex, Avon and Old Saybrook.
“There are many factors that have contributed to this,” explained Maura Esposito, the director of Chesprocott Health District. “We have a large (number) of health care professionals who live and work in our community, and we have really been putting a lot of information out there about the health and safety of the vaccine as well.”
“We have started a really comprehensive information campaign to make sure that all the information that is known about the vaccine is readily available to anyone who might be unsure,” added Kathryn Glendon, public health specialist for Chesprocott.
There has been quite a bit of controversy surrounding the vaccines since they were made available to the public beginning back in December. Recent national surveys have shown that a majority of individuals are planning to get vaccinated once they become eligible, however there remains a considerable amount of hesitancy among some.
Esposito explained that she and her staff are seeing the most concern about the vaccine among younger residents.
“A lot of young people, those who are of childbearing age, are concerned about the vaccine and its possible effects later on down the road, which is why we are seeing some people who are hesitant,” she said. “While there isn’t a lot of information out there on how it might impact those who are of childbearing age, we are making sure all the info that is out there is available.”
Both Esposito and Glendon are very excited about the good news for Cheshire, but are sure to remind all that the virus still remains very active and people are still vulnerable to catching the disease.
As of the end of last week, Cheshire has had 1,491 positive cases of COVID-19 and 35 deaths.
“This is really fantastic news for us,” Esposito said, regarding the vaccination rates, “but we are still seeing small bursts of the virus crop up here and there. We still have to quarantine entire basketball teams sometimes, and a lot of people are still gathering.”
Glendon warns that many of the cases Chesprocott is seeing at the moment emanate from get-togethers among individuals who may have opened up their “social bubble” perhaps too soon.
“We still have some really social people out there,” Glendon added, “people who still want to go out and have come into contact with others that they maybe haven’t for a while, and then it gets to everyone in the family.”
Although they are still seeing cases crop up, Chesprocott has been working around the clock to ensure that vaccinations are getting to those who need them the most.
“We have had our fair share of challenges for sure,” admitted Esposito. “In the beginning of the vaccination process, we had some of our elderly lined up down the road, in the cold, waiting, and that was unacceptable and we fixed that. The VAMS system has also been challenging for some, but many have had their younger relatives help them with any technological issues.”
Chesprocott has also begun the process of looking for a different vaccination site. Currently, clinics are being held at the Cheshire Community Pool to better serve the three districts that Chesprocott represents — Cheshire, Wolcott and Prospect.
“We want a better mass vaccination site, but we are still solidifying logistics as to where it might be,” she confirmed.
To schedule a vaccination appointment through the Vaccine Administration Management System, or VAMS, go to https://vams.cdc.gov/vaccineportal. Appointments can also be made by calling the COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment Assist Line at 877-918-2224 between the hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.