CHESHIRE — With the COVID-19 vaccine now being rolled out, local towns and governments are running into difficulty getting shots into arms.
Despite the complications, Cheshire has thus far been able to host at least three vaccine clinics without much difficulty, and when the town’s Chesprocott Health District realized they needed help with their vaccine clinic on Jan. 22, volunteers from both the Cheshire and Southington Community YMCAs jumped right in.
“We got the call Thursday night that they needed help,” said Cheshire YMCA Branch Director Chrissy Cassesse. “The next day, Friday, at 8 a.m., we all showed up and were ready to help Chesprocott with whatever they needed to do. It was insanely impressive how fast we were able to get the word out.”
The clinic was held at the Community Town Pool for individuals eligible to receive their vaccine under Phase 1A of the state’s rollout, as well as for residents who are 75 years of age or older.
One of those volunteers was Central Connecticut State University senior Mitchell Oliva, who spoke about just how important he felt assisting in the vaccine rollout.
“It was a truly amazing experience,” he said. “It felt like we were really seeing a light at the end of a tunnel after such a difficult year. Some people my age might think that they are immune to COVID, but no one is immune to COVID.”
Oliva has been a dedicated member of both the Cheshire and Southington YMCAs ever since he was a camper at Camp Sloper in Southington, and felt a strong urge to help.
“This wasn’t just something I wanted to do. I felt like it was my duty as a citizen to go out there and help get this thing done,” he said. “We have to get this virus under control and we need everyone’s help to do so.”
Oliva, and a majority of the rest of the YMCA volunteers who agreed to help, was stationed in the IT section of the vaccine clinic on the 22nd, which was responsible for scheduling residents for their second dose via the VAMS (Vaccine Administration Management System) after having received the first.
“When you use it, it walks you through the process and is actually pretty straightforward, provided that you know what you’re doing,” he added. “I was really impressed with the setup at the Town Pool. The people over at Chesprocott are so focused and dedicated.”
The clinic was situated in the back of the facility, which allowed swimmers to access the pool while the clinic was being held.
Despite not being able to get the vaccine himself, Oliva was excited to see so many individuals coming out to be inoculated.
“I had some people come up to me in tears (over) how happy they were that they were able to get the vaccine,” he said. “The senior population has been through so much during this pandemic with isolation, it’s so important for them to get these (shots) so we can move closer to normal.”
Oliva has experienced firsthand how difficult the pandemic has been for some of the town’s oldest residents.
“Some of my relatives are in assisted living facilities and they have been inside since basically March,” he said. “We have to get these shots out so we can protect our senior population. It’s the most important thing right now, because they are (at) the highest risk.”