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Dr. Cohen, CDC’s director, visits New Haven to spread importance of vaccines

NEW HAVEN — Dr. Mandy Cohen, the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, and various state legislators gathered to discuss the importance of vaccines and to get their own COVID-19 and flu shots on Thursday morning at the Fair Haven Community Health Center, 374 Grand Ave.

Governor Ned Lamont was the first to eagerly roll up his sleeves for his vaccines. 

“I feel safer already,” Lamont exclaimed after receiving his shots. 

Others in attendance included Sen. Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Fair Haven CEO Dr. Suzanne Lagarde and state Department of Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani. 

Cohen explained that three respiratory viruses will be circulating throughout fall and winter, mainly COVID-19, influenza and RSV, but residents can protect themselves by getting vaccinated.

More than 4 million people have already received their updated COVID-19 vaccine, she added. 

“Getting this updated [COVID-19] vaccine now allows your body to be in the best fighting shape it possibly can be going into the fall and winter, when we’re going to see more virus circulating,” Cohen said. “This virus continues to change and what this updated vaccine gets you is both the fact that you’re getting back into fighting shape … and it matches the current virus.” 

The COVID-19 vaccine 

There have been many delays in giving out the COVID-19 vaccine due to changes in the distribution system, Cohen said. She explained that the government paid for and distributed the COVID-19 vaccines throughout the pandemic, so this is the first year insurance companies are involved in covering the cost.

In response to a high volume of COVID-19 vaccine appointment cancellations, Juthani stressed that residents should have persistence and patience with pharmacies as they learn the new distribution system. She hopes these cancellations will lull as more vaccines become available.

“Every day … there’s more and more appointments and shots that are available,” Juthani said. “Some of those vaccines were approved to be purchased just in the last several weeks, so a lot of our places that are ordering them just got them processed, and I really think every day, every week, it will get better.”

However, all the representatives emphasized that anyone receiving a COVID-19 vaccine should not pay out-of-pocket since their insurance should cover it. Individuals who are underinsured or have no insurance can use the CDC’s Bridge Access Program to receive a free vaccine at participating locations, including the Fair Haven Community Health Center.

“There’s a free vaccine for COVID for everyone,” Cohen said.

Breaking ground 

After the vaccine panel, the legislators and community members were ushered next door for the groundbreaking of Fair Haven Community Health Center’s newest building.

Located at 390 Grand Ave. in New Haven, the new building will be 35,560 square feet with 26 exam rooms, behavioral health and assisted treatment addiction medicine spaces and a community pharmacy, according to the Fair Haven center’s website. There are also many new community spaces, including a training room with advanced technology to support learning programs like ESL, digital health literacy and job training.

Numerous state legislators took to the podium to speak on the importance of community-based health care and Fair Haven’s impact on the community.

“It’s hard to fathom what the community would look like without the steadfast presence of the Fair Haven Health Center,” DeLauro said.

Reporter Cris Villalonga-Vivoni is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Support RFA reporters at the Record-Journal through a donation at https://bit.ly/3Pdb0re.

"Getting this updated [COVID-19] vaccine now allows your body to be in the best fighting shape it possibly can be going into the fall and winter, when we’re going to see more virus circulating."

-Dr. Mandy Cohen, new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director

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