Editor's note: Produced in conjunction with the Latino Communities Reporting Lab.
MERIDEN — The Federal Emergency Management Administration COVID-19 Mobile Vaccination Unit is expected to dispense 800 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine when it comes to the city this weekend, officials said Thursday.
The vaccines are provided by Trinity Health and available to anyone over age 16. Participants don’t need to be Meriden residents, but appointments are required and minors must be accompanied by a parent.
The FEMA clinic will be set up in the lot of the former Meriden-Wallingford Hospital at 13 Orange St. from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. A second dose weekend is tentatively scheduled for May 15-16.
Those interested are asked to call 203-630-4224 for a Saturday appointment and 203-630-4227 for a Sunday appointment and leave a message.
Meriden Health and Human Services Director Lea Crown was assembling the roster of appointments Thursday, so it was unclear if all appointments were taken. Crown said the city health department is booking appointments with Casa Boricua, New Opportunities and the Salvation Army, as well as the city manager’s office. New Opportunities alone had booked 100 appointments for Saturday and Sunday. Appointments are still available, Crown said.
Crown said she’d know by Friday the total number of those registered.
The city is among 30 targeted zip codes in the state considered socially vulnerable and among 17 pop-up clinic sites for the FEMA mobile unit since it began traveling March 29. Just over 38 percent of the city’s population had been vaccinated as of April 19.
“We were approached by the Connecticut Department of Public Health to host the FEMA van,” Crown said.
The state DPH reported that during the unit’s 10-day stretch in Bridgeport, 3,256 shots were administered. Of those, 98 percent were administered to Bridgeport residents. Thirty-eight percent of recipients were Hispanic, 17 percent were Black, 14 percent were white and 28 percent were unknown. Two percent were Asian and another 2 percent listed other races. The department is still waiting on data for the past 10 days, said DPH spokeswoman Maura Fitzgerald.
The mobile units are part of a $33 million program to roll out the vaccine in communities identified in the socially vulnerable index maintained by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to the federal funding FEMA will reimburse state, local, tribal and territorial governments and the District of Columbia for the use of their National Guard to respond to COVID-19 at a 100% cost share until Sept. 30, 2021. It will also expedite reimbursement for eligible emergency work projects as appropriate and consistent with applicable law. Shift to outreach
As vaccine appointments become easier to get and supply begins to exceed demand, the strategy now is one of outreach into neighborhoods and workplaces.
“The strategy is more outbound,” said Joshua Geballe, state operations officer. “This means bringing vaccines to people and breaking barriers. This is the work that’s ahead of us right now.”
The rollout also includes yellow vans provided by Griffin Hospital in Derby to bring the vaccines to underserved communities.
Starting Monday, April 26, Griffin Hospital will be administering the Moderna vaccine at the Augusta Curtis Cultural Center, 175 East Main St., Meriden, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will continue every Monday thereafter. The vaccine is available to Meriden residents and walk-ups are allowed.
The FEMA van and the Griffin Hospital yellow vans had been dispensing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because it required only a single dose. But the CDC and Food and Drug Administration urged a pause on the vaccine last week to probe whether it was related to six instances of severe blood clots. The pause forced the mobile programs and other vaccine providers to switch to offering the two mRNA vaccines and scheduling second dose appointments.
The CDC and FDA are expected to make a decision on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine Friday.