Hartford HealthCare announced Thursday it would be making the COVID-19 vaccine available to patients in its nine emergency rooms statewide, including MidState Medical Center in Meriden.
HHC officials told reporters at a press conference in New Britain that it would begin screening patients who arrive at the emergency rooms for other ailments to receive the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. It is also making the vaccine available to patients before they are discharged.
“If a patient wants to get vaccinated before discharge, we can make that happen,” said Gary Havican, president of the Hospital of Central Connecticut and MidState Medical Center. ”It is part of our commitment to make sure the vaccine is available to anyone who wants it.”
Hartford HealthCare surpassed 300,000 doses of the three vaccine types in the past four months. The new program is expected to add about 2,000 doses per week. HHC officials said there is enough J&J supply available, but the double-dose mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna would be used if necessary.
“We have continued to increase the number of vaccines,” said HHC President Jeff Flaks. “The only challenge is the supply.”
Health care officials are in a race to get as many people vaccinated as possible, Flaks said. People coming into the emergency room provide an opportunity to vaccinate another cohort in the community. Nursing home and rehabilitation center operators have expressed concerns over unvaccinated patients spreading the virus after leaving the hospital.
The pilot program will ensure those patients have access to the vaccine prior to arriving in a new center or returning to a nursing home, health officials said.
The vaccine rollout in the emergency rooms will occur over the next several weeks, health officials said. The program also gives patients an opportunity to learn more about the vaccine and get answers to any questions or concerns, said emergency room nurse Erica Paz.
‘We are the safety net for our patients,” Paz said. “This is such an important avenue to educate our patients in a one-on-one setting.”
Meriden Mayor Kevin Scarpati was glad to hear the vaccines would be available at MidState Medical Center.
“Hartford HealthCare has been a tremendous partner since the start of the pandemic,” Scarpati said. “Now that the vaccine is available, the most important thing we can do is educate our citizens about its safety and efficacy and make it accessible for them to get vaccinated.”