Local residents over age 75 have more vaccine sites available after several health care networks expanded the numbers of clinics, but the wait times could be several weeks or more.
“We are focusing primarily on our 75 or up,” said Hartford HealthCare Systems Director Keith Grant. “We want to ensure we’re getting to these individuals who have great mortality and been significantly impacted.”
Hartford HealthCare announced Tuesday the opening of four new vaccine clinics at MidState Medical Center, Queen Street in Southington and in Mystic and Torrington.
Gov. Ned Lamont announced a tiered system Tuesday for Phase 1b. Scheduling for those age 65 to 74 will begin in February or March followed by frontline essential workers and individuals with underlying medical conditions who have an increased risk for severe illness.
“We are working to administer the vaccine to as many people as possible, but the greatest barrier continues to be our supply as we are only scheduled to receive about 45,000 doses of the vaccine per week, while 1.4 million people are eligible under Phase 1b,” Lamont said. “That is why we are working to roll this out in a way that gets the vaccine to the people who are at greatest risk first.”
Hartford HealthCare has vaccinated 30,000 people since the first Pfizer BioNTech vaccine was introduced in late December. It is currently administering the second and final Moderna vaccine dose to front line health care workers. It is currently injecting between 2,000 and 2,500 doses into arms a week and has expanded its clinics at the Hartford Convention Center and elsewhere.
The Community Health Center Inc. opened a massive inoculation effort Monday at the former Pratt & Whitney airport in East Hartford. The site is staffed by CHC workers and members of the Connecticut National Guard.
“We administered just over 400 doses yesterday and anticipate doing closer to 1,000 today,” spokeswoman Leslie Gianelli said Tuesday. “We anticipate vaccinating 7,000 to 10,000 people per week at this location and opening other mass vaccination sites soon. We will be in East Hartford for several months.”
But the state’s information as to who is eligible in Phase 1b has led to confusion among certain groups. For instance school nurses are now allowed to make vaccine appointments, but teachers are asked to wait. Miscommunication from the state Department of Public Health to school districts’ human resource officials forced teachers in about seven districts to cancel appointments.
“It was like someone gave them a gift then they took it away,” said Brian Benigni, superintendent of Berlin Public Schools. “They were absolutely looking forward to getting the vaccines.”
Benigni said the mixup occured last week when the human resources office received an email from the state allowing local officials to upload school personnel for vaccine appointments. The human resources department uploaded the roster and teachers and others began receiving emails to schedule appointments. The district has about 400 employees, Benigni said.
The state quickly sent a follow up email stating that only school nurses were eligible not the entire staff and advised those with appointments to cancel them. State officials later said don’t cancel the appointments, but many appointments were rejected when the school employees arrived at the clinic. Others were not and the employee was vaccinated ahead of schedule.
School employees are now encouraged not to cancel appointments but only those over age 65 should make new appointments.
.”I don’t know how it’s working in the system. We’re decimating the information,” Benigni said. “It’s not like we were trying to cut the line. I know we’re not alone. It was done inadvertantly.”
Hartford HealthCare and other provders said they are working as fast as they can to ensure those over age 75 and frontline workers are vaccinated so they can move to the next group in Phase 1b.
“There is so much more work to do,” Grant said. “There are millions of individuals in the state of Connecticut that will get vaccinated and we’ll ensure we have the ability to vaccinate.”
The current wait time for an appointment is two weeks and longer and many people have reported frustration with long phone wait times and websites that time out.
As more sites open up and more vaccines are made available there are several ways frontline health care workers, first responders and those over age 75 can register to receive vaccines.
Those in Meriden may call the city’s Department of Health and Human Services at (203) 630-4221 but a message Tuesday stated the clinic is booked and appointments will resume when it has cleared the bottleneck. People may use MyChartPlus from Hartford HealthCare to book appointments at seven Hartford HealthCare clinics.
Vaccinations began today at HHC’s site on Queen Street in Southington and begin tomorrow at MidState Medical Center Wednesday. Those in need of technical support to set up a MyChartPlus account may call the support line at 860-972-4993.
Registrations can also be made through the state DPH Vaccine Account Management System or VAMS: https://dphsubmissions.ct.gov/OnlineVaccine or the state’s 211 system at 877-918-2224.